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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 22:32 GMT

Russian claims rejected

Russia's protest over Irina Slutskaya's second place in the women's figure skating has been rejected.

Officials had filed a formal protest against 'biased judging' and demanded that Slutskaya should be given her own gold medal

Russian Figure Skating Federation president Valentin Piseyev signed the protest sent to the referee of Thursday night's free skate, won by 16-year-old American Sarah Hughes.

It singled out the judging that awarded Hughes gold after she was only placed fourth in the earlier short program.

"I think we are seeing a witch hunt"
ROC president Leonid Tyagachev

Michelle Kwan of the United States took the bronze medal.

"We filed the protest because we think the judging was biased," Viktor Mamatov, the head of the Russian delegation in Salt Lake City, had said.

"Canadian pair skaters were awarded their gold medals. Now that subjective judging harmed us, we want the same for Slutskaya."

Mamatov had been non-committal when asked whether he thought the protest had a realistic chance of success.

"Right now, I don't think anything," he added. "We'll wait for the protest to be evaluated, then we'll see."

Threatened walk-out

Ottavio Cinquanta, president of the International Skating Union, had played down the protest.

"For us, this is not so important," said Cinquanta, whose organisation is already investigating allegations of judging misconduct in last week's pairs' competition.

Mamatov refused to speculate whether the latest controversy would prompt the Russians to leave Salt Lake City before the end of the Games.

Russian officials first threatened to walk out on Thursday, citing favouritism and unfair treatment from Olympic officials and judges.

Leonid Tyagachev, president of Russia's Olympic Committee, said a high number of Russian athletes had been selected for drug tests and was unhappy at an unspecified ruling by a goal judge in ice hockey.

"If decisions are not made and issues we raised not resolved, the Russian team will not play hockey, will not run 30km, will look very negatively on other factors," Tyagachev said.

"I think we are seeing a witch hunt," he added.

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