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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 23:14 GMT

'Skategate' row rumbles on

By BBC Sport Online's James Cowling

British skating official Sally Anne Stapleford has revealed she will take legal advice over the latest allegations made by the judge at the centre of the Olympic "Skategate" scandal.

Marie-Reine Le Gougne held a press conference on Thursday to repeat her claims that she had been trapped by the International Skating Union (ISU) over the Winter Games pairs controversy.

Le Gougne said: "As soon as I put my pen down, I was subjected to a series of physical, verbal and moral attacks."

And she named British ISU official Stapleford as being responsible for most of the verbal attacks.

"If I wanted to sue for slander I would have a very good case"
ISU official Sally Anne Stapleford

But Stapleford denied Le Gougne's allegations on Thursday night.

And she told BBC Sport Online that she would be consulting lawyers over the Frenchwoman's remarks.

She said she did not yet know what her next move would be.

But she added: "I suppose if I wanted to sue for slander I would have a very good case.

"Obviously, I will take legal advice. At the end of the day you have to rise above all this nonsense."

Le Gougne was suspended by the ISU for misconduct during the pairs' event in Salt Lake City.

The affair ended with Canadian pair Jamie Sale and David Pelletier being awarded an unprecedented gold medal after the French judge said she had been pressured to place the Russian pair, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, first.

She has since denied any vote-rigging and named Stapleford, of London, as leading ISU attacks on her.

But Stapleford, speaking at the Junior World Championships in Hamar, Norway, replied: "There is absolutely no truth in it whatsoever.

"I've been in skating for so many years and everybody knows me and knows what the truth is.

"Obviously the lady was very emotionally distraught at the time and continues to be emotionally upset.

"I don't know why she would make these incorrect statements."

And she added: "I have three independent witnesses to the whole conversation. It was an unsolicited approach from Le Gougne to me."

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