Olympics: Judge was 'trapped'

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Marie-Reine Le Gougne, the judge at the center of the Winter Olympics scandal, said yesterday that she had been the victim of a trap set by Salt Lake City leading officials and the American media, which made her falsely accuse her own federation of pressuring her.

Speaking at her first news conference since voting for the Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in the ice skating pairs competition, the French judge defended her decision to give a higher mark to the Russians than she awarded to the Canadian couple, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, despite an obvious technical error by Sikharulidze. Salé and Pelletier took silver but were later awarded joint gold.

"I found myself in a trap," Le Gougne said. "They made me say what they wanted me to say." Le Gougne was suspended by the International Skating Union just three days after judging. The suspension followed her statements after the competition, when she accused the French federation president, Didier Gailhaguet, of pressuring her to vote for the Russians.

However, yesterday she said: "I have never had any pressure from Didier, or from any other official in my federation."

Le Gougne urged that her ban be lifted, saying: "There were five of us who put the Russians first. Why have I been suspended?"

The ISU is to meet next month to make a final decision about the affair and the future of Le Gougne.