Russians to sue U.S. TV networks
Pairs skaters say pictures
of them are being shown
with alleged mobster
MOSCOW, Aug. 2 Russia's Olympic pairs champions plan to sue
U.S. television networks for using pictures of them in connection with
coverage of a reputed Russian mobster accused of trying to fix two
figure skating competitions at the Winter Games.
ANTON SIKHARULIDZE AND Yelena Berezhnaya spoke on Russian
television channels Friday, but it was not immediately clear which
networks the pair planned to sue.
"I saw our pictures appearing on the screen while they were
talking about some kind of Russian mafia," an angry Sikharulidze said.
"Together with people who are working with us, we are preparing to sue
the television channels."
Russian Olympic Committee spokesman Gennady Shvets told The
Associated Press that its officials and lawyers met Friday to work out
a strategy for supporting the athletes' lawsuits.
Shvets derided the U.S. charges against Tokhtakhounov, saying
they were "absolutely stupid" and "funny as a cartoon" "After the
uproar calms down, they will realize that all this is sheer nonsense,"
Sikharulidze and Berezhnaya beat Canadians Jamie Sale and David
Pelletier in the pairs at Salt Lake City. A French judge said the next
day she had been pressured to vote for the Russians, who slipped
during their routine while the Canadians were virtually flawless. The
scandal led to a duplicate set of gold medals awarded to the Canadian
Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was arrested Wednesday by Italian police
on U.S. charges of conspiring to buy off Olympic judges.
Tokhtakhounov, an Uzbek-born Russian citizen long living abroad, is
accused of scheming to persuade a French judge to vote for the Russian
pairs team and a Russian judge to vote in turn for the French ice
dancing team. Both teams won gold medals.
Sikharulidze said neither he nor Berezhnaya nor anyone else on
the Russian Olympic team had contacts with Tokhtakhounov. He called
the charges "yet another political action."
The charges against Tokhtakhounov have been ridiculed by
Russian sports officials, athletes and public figures. They
interpreted them as a continuation of what was widely seen in Russia
as unfair treatment of its athletes in Salt Lake City by both Olympic
judges and the U.S. media.
"It's time for the Canadian and U.S. people to calm down and
be happy with the (duplicate) gold medals they were given as a gift,"
said Sikharulidze, his voice strained with emotion. "These people must
be happy with the gold medals they were awarded I don't know what
With Berezhnaya standing next to him at St. Petersburg's
airport, Sikharulidze contended the U.S. television networks were
profiting from the latest charges against Tokhtakhounov to widen their
"This scandal will benefit the TV people and show organizers
since it helps raise the public interest in figure skating and
increases attendance as people want to see these 'mobsters on ice,""
As a long time skating fan, I don't like this at all. However,
Anton's remarks are out of line. I think most U.S. and Canadian
citizens should vote with their wallet; that being don't patronize
shows with these skaters.