Gymnastics officials ask Hamm to give up gold medal

Friday, August 27th 2004, 6:55 am
By: News On 6

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Gymnastics officials asked American Paul Hamm to give up his gold medal as the ultimate show of sportsmanship, but the United States Olympic Committee told them to take responsibility for their own mistakes.

In a dispute over scores that has turned into a political squabble, the head of the International Gymnastics Federation wrote a letter to Hamm on Thursday night that suggested giving the all-around gold medal to South Korea's Yang Tae-young ``would be recognized as the ultimate demonstration of fair play by the whole world.''

FIG president Bruno Grandi tried to have the letter sent to Hamm through the USOC, but the USOC refused to deliver it.

In a letter back to Grandi, USOC secretary general Jim Scherr called the request ``a blatant and inappropriate attempt on the part of (FIG) to once again shift responsibility for its own mistakes and instead pressure Mr. Hamm into resolving what has become an embarrassing situation for your federation.''

Yang, the bronze medalist, was wrongly docked a tenth of a point on his parallel bars routine. If he had received the proper score, he would have won gold and Hamm would have won silver. Three judges were suspended, and FIG said the results would stand.

Through his agent, Hamm declined comment.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Grandi said he felt the issue was closed until he saw a quote from Hamm, who said earlier this week he would abide by FIG's decision, and give the gold back if the federation said he must.

Although Grandi's letter says ``the true winner of the all-around competition is Yang Tae-young'' the FIG president insisted he's not pressuring Hamm to give back the gold.

``There is no doubt he has won the medal,'' Grandi said. ``He deserves the medal and the ranking is clear. . . . ``I respect totally Paul Hamm and all the decisions he makes. If he says give back the medal, I respect it. Don't give back the medal, I respect the decision. He is not responsible for anything.''

The USOC had a much different interpretation of the letter.

``I don't know of any comparison in any sport anywhere where you crown an athlete, crown a team and then say, `Oh, that was a mistake. Would you fix this for us?''' USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said.

Uberroth said the USOC considers the case closed, based on the FIG ruling _ that the scores could not be changed _ and from a statement from International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, who said the IOC would stick with the results turned in by the federation and wouldn't step in unless there were clear signs of impropriety.