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US ice-skater's future hangs in the balance

PORTLAND (Reuter) - The Olympic future of the figure skater Tonya Harding hung in the balance yesterday as prosecutors considered bringing fresh charges over an assault on her main rival that has left a cloud of suspicion over her.

US Olympic officials were to discuss Ms Harding's fate yesterday at a scheduled meeting in Durham, North Carolina, which has taken on new urgency following the scandal over the 6 January attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

The Detroit News said yesterday that Detroit police were seeking arrest warrants for four people, including Ms Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, in connection with the attack on Ms Kerrigan. Ms Harding's bodyguard and two alleged accomplices already face charges in Oregon of conspiracy to carry out the assault, which has caused turmoil in the sporting world.

Ms Harding has denied any involvement in the attack, her lawyer said yesterday. 'Tonya Harding categorically denies that she was involved in any way in the Kerrigan assault,' Dennis Rawlinson said in a prepared statement. 'She is pleased to see Nancy Kerrigan is recovering quickly.'

He refused to take any questions, referring reporters' queries to his wife and Ms Harding's coach, Diane Rawlinson. Mrs Rawlinson said her skater thrived on pressure and would not be deterred in her bid for an Olympic gold medal by speculation over her possible role in the attack that forced Ms Kerrigan to miss the US championships.

With some sports officials taking a tougher line against Ms Harding, Portland's Oregonian newspaper said yesterday that by the time the Olympic Commitee meeting ends 'the wheels could be in motion to expel Ms Harding from the Games'.

Peter Pringle, page 17