'The severity of these allegations is shocking.'– Pam Coburn, head of Skate Canada, on charges that a Russian mob boss was involved in fixing figure-skating events in Salt Lake City.

Skating scandal

A reputed Russian mobster eager to win a French visa has been charged with fixing a pair of figure-skating events in a scandal that has tainted the Salt Lake City winter Olympics.

Alimzan Tokhtakhounov, arrested Wednesday in Italy on US conspiracy charges, is accused of scheming to persuade a French judge to vote for the Russian pairs team and a Russian judge to vote in turn for the French ice-dancing team, according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. Both teams won gold medals.

The suspect "arranged a classic quid pro quo: 'You'll line up support for the Russian pair, we'll line up support for the French pair, and everybody will go away with the gold, and perhaps there'll be a little gold for me,' " US Attorney James Comey said.

French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne said she'd been pressured to vote for the Russians, who slipped during their routine whereas the Canadians were flawless.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said yesterday he is "appalled" by these latest developments. "While we knew from previous investigations that the judgment in the pairs figure-skating was not correct, we are shocked to learn of the alleged involvement of organized crime," he said. The judging flap, the biggest in Olympics history, resulted in a duplicate set of gold medals being awarded to the Canadian pairs team.

British athletes shine

National rejoicing over the record-breaking successes of British track and field athletes brought two questions yesterday: Was the crowd witnessing a renaissance? Or did the athletes blossom on home soil but may wilt at the European Championships in Munich next week?

Ashia Hansen, who retained her triple-jump title, was optimistic about the significance of the team's performance at the Commonwealth Games. "It bodes well," she said. England raked in six gold medals Wednesday evening to take the host nation's track and field medal tally to 12. That was two more than Malaysia won four years ago.

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