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Hamm will keep Olympic gold

Pritha Sarkar | October 22, 2004 11:50 IST

American gymnast Paul Hamm will keep his Olympic all-round gold medal after the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected an appeal from South Korea's Yang Tae-young.

"This is obviously a great day for me," Hamm told a teleconference on Thursday. "The decision from CAS confirms what I always felt in my heart - that I was the champion that night and I am the Olympic all-round gold medallist."

Hamm became the first American man to win the all-round title on August 18 but just three days later it transpired he had been awarded the title due to a scoring error.

In one of the biggest controversies of the Athens Olympics, the governing body of gymnastics (FIG) ruled bronze medallist Yang should have been awarded the gold as he was incorrectly docked a 10th of a point from his parallel bars routine.

The FIG immediately suspended the three technical judges involved but refused to redistribute the medals itself.

Instead in a letter to Hamm, the FIG declared the South Korean was the "true winner of the all-round competition" and requested he surrender the gold medal to Yang as the "ultimate demonstration of fair play".

The suggestion was angrily rejected by American Olympic chiefs, who accused the FIG of attempting to shift the blame for its own mistakes on to the shoulders of Hamm.

Following a 12-hour hearing at its headquarters last month, CAS upheld the original result on Thursday to end almost two months of legal wrangling.

VERDICT ACCEPTED

"The best decisions are always made on the field of play and should be left to judges on the field of play and stay there," U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) chief of sport performance Jim Scherr told the teleconference.

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Yang accepted CAS's verdict and felt it best not to dwell on the past any longer.

"Although I failed to win the gold medal, I respect CAS's decision," Yang said on national television. "But I will not be frustrated with this and will make all efforts to win the gold in the next Beijing Olympic Games."

South Korea's Olympic Committee (KOC) also said it would recognise the decision.

American officials said CAS had ruled against the Koreans because it could not review decisions made on the field of play if fraud or impropriety was not involved.

The Korean team could also have complained during the competition but failed to do so, the court ruled.

"There are two victims of this unusual sequence of events, Hamm and Yang," CAS said in its judgment. "Hamm because, as he eloquently explained, a shadow of doubt has been cast over his achievement in winning the sport's prestigious prize.

"Yang because he may have been deprived of an opportunity of winning it."

Hamm is now seeking an apology from FIG.

"There was very little communication with me during the Olympic Games," Hamm said. "I would love to have an apology from FIG. They handled the situation very poorly."

(additional reporting by Robert Woodward)

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