US fury at call to return medal

American Olympic officials reacted angrily yesterday to a suggestion that their gold medallist Paul Hamm should give his medal to a South Korean rival.

American Olympic officials reacted angrily yesterday to a suggestion that their gold medallist Paul Hamm should give his medal to a South Korean rival.

In one of the biggest controversies of the Games, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has said that Hamm had been placed first in the all-round event due to a judging error and bronze medallist Yang Tae-Young should have been awarded gold.

The FIG has suspended the judges involved, saying they incorrectly docked a 10th of a point from Yang's parallel bars routine in the final on Wednesday last week. But it has said it has no mechanism to overturn the final standings.

The FIG has written to Hamm to suggest he could return his medal, according to a letter released by the US Olympic committee.

"The true winner of the all-round competition is Yang Tae-Young," the letter said.

"If... you would return your medal to the Korean if the FIG requested it, then such an action would be recognised as the ultimate demonstration of fairplay by the whole world," said the letter signed by federation president Bruno Grandi.

The US Olympic Committee said the letter was a "blatant and inappropriate" attempt by the federation to shift responsibility for its mistake onto the shoulders of Hamm.

"It's deplorable that they are deflecting their own incompetence to a young athlete who simply came to compete in the Olympic Games," Peter Ueberroth, the USOC, chairman, said.

USOC chiefs spoke to Hamm, who has returned to the United States. "During these conversations, the USOC expressed its unwavering support for Mr Hamm and indicated it will aggressively resist any attempt by any party to lay claim to his gold medal," a statement said.

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