Whopper of the week: special Olympic edition.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Feb. 22 2002 3:18 PM

Whopper of the Week: Marie-Reine Le Gougne

"Emotionally fragile" Olympic skating judge retracts confession!

"I considered that the Russians were the best .... I never made a deal with an official or a Russian judge."

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--Marie-Reine Le Gougne, the French Olympic skating judge "who allegedly favored a Russian couple in last week's pairs skate to ensure a gold medal for the French in the [subsequent] ice dancing competition," according to a Feb. 18 Associated Press story. Le Gougne made her comment to the French sports daily, L'Equipe in a Feb. 18 interview headlined "La Juge S'Explique."

"[U.S. championship judge Jon] Jackson said he had seen Le Gougne walk up to [International Skating Union] council member Sally Stapleford and say, 'Ice dancing is ruining the sport of figure skating. I have to defend myself. I did this for my dance team. It's a deal with the Russians, first place for first place.'

"Stapleford said she is 'sticking 100 percent' to what she reported about the incident to the ISU in a letter cosigned by two other council members present at the time."

-- "French Skate Judge Denies Vote Swap,"   by Steve Wilstein of the AP, Feb. 21.

Discussion: Le Gougne's story now is that she "felt threatened physically" and that Stapleford (who, like the skaters who lost the gold medal to the Russians, is Canadian) "assailed me, scolding me for having voted for the Russians. That's when I broke down." According to Le Gougne, it was Stapleford's idea, not hers, that Le Gougne had been pressured into voting dishonestly. But the two witnesses mentioned above-- Walburga Grimm of Germany and Britta Lindgren of Sweden—were apparently persuasive enough in contradicting Le Gougne's version and supporting Stapleford's that the International Olympic Committee decided to award a gold medal to the Canadian skaters, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, alongside that already awarded to the Russian skaters, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.

Got a whopper? Send it to chatterbox@slate.com. To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:
Feb. 14, 2002: Kenneth Lay
Feb 8, 2002: Enron spokeswoman Peggy Mahoney
Jan. 31, 2002: Monsanto
Jan. 24, 2002: Linda Chavez
Jan. 17, 2002: George W. Bush
Jan. 10, 2002: Simon & Schuster
Jan. 4, 2002: The Associated Press

(Click  here  to access the Whopper Archive for 2001.)

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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