Americans unruffled by 'laughable' allegations

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 09, 2014 5:51 AM

By Pritha Sarkar

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Meryl Davis and Charlie White did not lose sleep over what U.S. Figure Skating called "laughable" allegations suggesting the United States and Russia had brokered a deal to help each other win gold medals at the Sochi Olympics.

"There was an anonymous report citing an unnamed source that there was some kind of collusion between America and Russia regarding the ice dancing competition," U.S. Figure Skating spokesperson Barbara Reichert told reporters on Sunday, a day after the report first surfaced.

"U.S. Figure Skating never has and would not a deal with anyone. Our ice dancers are two-times world champions, they have won five Grand Prix finals in a row.

"You saw them last night and they were excellent. There are always excellent. They put in the work. Meryl and Charlie are the standard bearers of excellence. For that kind of report to come out was not only disconcerting but unfortunate to the sport.

"It was laughable, a story like that is just putting the sport in bad light."

The original report, in French sports newspaper L'Equipe, said the arrangement would help Davis and White to become the first Americans to win the Olympic ice dance gold, while Russia in return would benefit in the team and pairs competitions.

It also alluded that the deal was made so that Davis and White were guaranteed to beat Canadian rivals and 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, with whom they share a coach in Marina Zoueva.

Such a pact would seem to make little sense, though, as Russia are leading contenders for the team title, boasting strong performers in all four disciplines. Davis and White are favourites for the ice dance gold, given they have not been beaten for almost two years.

Davis and White lived up to their favourite tag on Saturday when they dazzled in the short programme of the team event.

"They've been in this sport for so long, they know interesting things always happen," added Reichert.

"Being veterans, they know that the next crazy thing is coming their way. They are such pros, it might have unsettled younger athletes, but it certainly does not unsettle people of their calibre because they are amazing."

On Saturday, Davis shrugged her shoulders when made aware of the allegations and said: "We are confident that what we are putting out onto the ice speaks for itself."

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Judging scandals have often blighted figure skating, with the most famous being at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when allegations of vote-rigging led to Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier being awarded duplicate gold medals in the pairs competition with Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.

French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne was banned after admitting she had been pressured to back the Russians in an arrangement that would also lead to French couple Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat winning the ice dance.

That episode led to the axing of the old 6.0-scoring system and it was replaced with the current accumulative scoring system, which officials believe cannot be manipulated as scores are now picked at random - with the judging panel unaware which scores have been discarded.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)