Russian Media Criticize Two-Gold Decision

Russian commentators on Saturday assailed the decision to award a Canadian skating duo a second Olympic gold medal alongside the Russian winners. Canada's prime minister defended his country's athletes.

Russian media suggested that Friday's decision to award silver medalists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier a gold after the skating union said it uncovered misconduct by a French judge was a result of pressure by the North American media.

"Such close attention to the international judges is seen by many athletes as an attempt by American television stations and newspapers to raise their own rating," an NTV television anchor said.

Valentin Piseyev, head of Russia's figure skating federation, said that Russian duo Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze had been targeted because other countries were annoyed by Russia's 38-year hold over pairs skating at the Olympics.

"If this happened to another pair ... nobody would reconsider the decision," he said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, on a visit to Moscow, was quoted by NTV as saying that he had watched the skating and in his opinion, Sale and Pelletier were the winners.

Because of the time difference, most Russian newspapers did not report the decision, though many carried commentaries about the uproar over the French judge's alleged misconduct.

The skaters that started Russia's record in pairs skating, 1964 Olympic champions Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopov, wrote in the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that this year's Russian victory "leaves no room for doubt."

"We congratulate the Russian school of figure skating on its deserved victory. It needs no behind-the-scenes defenders," they wrote.