Skater 'took part in plot to attack rival': Tonya Harding heads for a fall as former husband becomes her accuser in Oregon court

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The Independent Online
TONYA HARDING approved the attack on her rival US figure- skater Nancy Kerrigan with one simple command, 'Okay, let's do it', according to a lengthy statement made by one of the conspirators to FBI investigators.

Jeff Gillooly, her former husband, also told detectives that she personally obtained the name of the rink where Ms Kerrigan practised, called the arena to determine her schedule, and supplied plotters with a magazine which contained her rival's photograph.

In a 60-page statement to the FBI, released by prosecutors last night, Mr Gillooly also alleged that Ms Harding became upset when the planned attack had not taken place by New Year's Eve, complained that no one seemed able to carry it out, and demanded the return of dollars 2,000 ( pounds 1,300) paid to conspirators. He claimed that his ex-wife, with whom he was reconciled at the time of the attack, suggested that Nancy Kerrigan should be assaulted in a bar because it would make her 'look bad'.

His damning accusations coincided with his appearance before a court in Portland, Oregon, where he pleaded guilty to racketeering charges relating to the attack. Under a plea-bargain deal, he has agreed to a two-year prison sentence and dollars 100,000 fine. According to his lawyer, Ronald Hoevet, he confessed to playing a part in the plot against Ms Kerrigan after discovering that Ms Harding had broken a promise not to tell federal investigators about his involvement.

In a bizarre incident that has scandalised the international sporting world, Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed on the right leg by a man wielding a police-issue baton after a practice session for the US women's figure skating championships in Detroit last month. She suffered bruises above the knee, from which she is now recovering.

In his FBI statement, Mr Gillooly also accused Tonya Harding of personally obtaining her rival's hotel room number and practice schedule in Detroit, which he passed on to Shawn Eckardt, her bodyguard, who helped mastermind the assault.

The evidence against the skater was such that charges were 'inevitable' said Mr Hoevet, after his client appeared in court. 'Denial is no longer plausible. The truth about this bizarre crime has now been revealed.'

Ms Harding has repeatedly insisted that she knew nothing about the attack beforehand, although she has admitted withholding information from the authorities after finding out that members of her entourage were involved. Her laywers issued a statement dismissing the allegations by Mr Gillooly, with whom she has had a stormy relationship for several years, describing them as 'further evidence of his abusive conduct towards her'.

Meanwhile, a five-member committee of the US Figure Skating Association was due to meet in Colorado yesterday for discussions over whether Ms Harding should be disqualified from the Olympics figure skating contest. At present both skaters are on the team roster, but if Ms Harding is banned her place will go to Michelle Kwan, 13, from California.

(Photograph omitted)