Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - An alleged Russian crime boss was arrested in Italy on U.S. charges he tried to fix the ice dancing competition at the 2002 Olympics, a senior law enforcement official said. official.
The official said the Justice Department also is investigating whether the suspect, Alimzan Tokhtakhounov, or anyone else might have influenced Olympic judges in other events.
The charges allege Tokhtakhounov attempted to influence judges to award the gold medal to the French team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat. The French pair did end up winning the ice dancing competition.
Figure skating at the Salt Lake City Games was marked by the biggest judging scandal in Olympic history.
Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the pairs skating gold medal by the slimmest of margins, defeating Candians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. But French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne said the next day that she'd been pressured to put the Russians first, and the Candians later were given duplicate gold medals.
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The ice dancing competition also was a point of controversy.
Lithuanians Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas, who finished fifth, filed a protest questioning the voting that placed the couple lower than the Italian and Canadian couples who fell during the free dance, the final phase of the competition. The International Skating Union rejected the protest.
The Lithuanians said they didn't expect to win their appeal but came forward to generate publicity and expose judging inconsistencies.
"It was an impetus to do it, but we wouldn't have done it unless there was such a stark realization that something was wrong, especially with the two skaters falling," said John Domanskis, spokesman for the Lithuanian Olympic team. "That certainly made it easier for our skaters to say, 'Yes, there is a problem and it should be corrected'."
Russia's Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh took silver in ice dancing and Italy's Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio got the bronze. Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz were fourth.