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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
'Mafia boss' held for Olympic fixing
Olympic champions Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat
The French team won the ice dancing competition
An alleged Russian crime boss has been arrested on charges that he tried to fix certain skating competitions at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

United States Federal prosecutors said the man, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, was arrested in Italy on charges of trying to influence the judges.

Jamie Sale and David Pelletier
Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were awarded late gold medals
"The defendant was arrested by Italian law enforcement authorities with the assistance of the FBI," said a statement from the office of the US Attorney in New York.

A criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court identified Mr Tokhtakhounov as a "major figure in international Eurasian organised crime".

The complaint alleges that he used his influence with members of the Russian and French skating federations to fix the outcome of the pairs and ice dancing competitions at the 2002 Olympics.

Controversial judging

According to the Associated Press news agency, prosecutors allege that Mr Tokhtakhounov arranged for the Russian judge to vote for the French ice dancing team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat. The pair won a gold medal.

In exchange, he is alleged to have been influential in getting the French judge to vote for the Russian figure skating team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, which also won gold.

This latter decision was marked by controversy during the games.

The Russian team only beat Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier by the slimmest of margins.

A day after the awards were given, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she had been pressurised by French figure skating President Didier Gailhaguet to put the Russians first.

The judges subsequently awarded gold medals to the Canadian team as well, and both Ms Le Gougne and Mr Gailhaguet were suspended from the International Skating Union for three years.

Lithuanian protest

The Olympic ice dancing competition was also mired in controversy.

The Lithuanians, who finished fifth, filed a protest questioning the judging of the competition, claiming they should not have been placed lower than the Italian and Canadian couples, who fell during the final phase of the competition.

The International Skating Union rejected the protest.

At the time, the Lithuanians said they did not expect to win their appeal but came forward to generate publicity and expose judging inconsistencies.

"It was an impetus to do it, but we would not have done it unless there was such a stark realization that something was wrong," said John Domanskis, spokesman for the Lithuanian Olympic team.

See also:

18 Feb 02 | Skating
19 Feb 02 | Skating
08 Feb 02 | Wales
24 Feb 02 | Skating
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