Hamm waits for decision on gold after 11 1/2 hour hearing

Sam Cage and Sam Cage

Paul Hamm fought to keep his Olympic gymnastics gold medal Monday during an 11 1/2-hour hearing before the sports world’s highest court, and the panel adjourned without making a decision.

Three CAS arbitrators convened to hear the appeal from a South Korean who lost the gold medal in the all-around at the Athens Olympics after a scoring error by the judges.

CAS general secretary Matthieu Reeb said the arbitrators — from Germany, Kenya and Britain — hoped to make a decision within the next two weeks.

Yang Tae-young wants the court to order international gymnastics officials to change the rankings and give him the gold and Hamm the silver. Hamm and the U.S. Olympic Committee spent the hearing fighting Yang’s appeal.

“I thought everything went very smoothly,” Hamm said in a teleconference after the hearing. “It was a very fair hearing and everyone got the chance to say what they thought.”

Yang, who finished with a bronze, was mistakenly docked 0.10 points on the start value of his next-to-last routine, the parallel bars. He finished third, 0.049 points behind Hamm, who became the first American man to win gymnastics’ biggest prize.

With the extra 0.100, Yang would have finished 0.051 points ahead of Hamm. That, however, assumes everything in the final rotation would have played out the same way.

“The issue is whether this (mistake) affected the result,” Reeb said.

South Korean officials declined comment following the hearing.

The USOC’s lead attorney, Jeff Benz, said he argued three points:

That the court could not make decisions on “field-of-play” issues in other words, on judgment calls made by officials during the competition.

That the South Koreans didn’t protest in time for there to be any change in the results.

That simply adding 0.1 points to Yang’s score wouldn’t give an accurate reflection of the results because there was another event to go after the disputed parallel bars, and nobody knows what would have happened had the scores been different heading in.

“We are confident we were able to express ourselves to arbitrators to the fullest extent possible in way they understood,” Benz said.

The International Gymnastics Federation, known as FIG, acknowledged the scoring error and suspended three judges for the rest of the games. It said repeatedly it won’t change the results because the South Koreans didn’t file a protest in time.

FIG president Bruno Grandi confused the issue, however, when he sent a letter to Hamm asking him to surrender the medal voluntarily. In the letter, Grandi wrote, “The true winner of the all-around competition is Yang Tae-young.”

USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi said the competition should have been considered closed the moment the results were published.

“It’s a bad precedent to look at field-of-play calls in court,” he said. “There’s a human element in sport. There are always going to be some things that happen that on review might have gone differently.”

CAS traditionally does not involve itself in “field-of-play” decisions, but Yang had nowhere else to go. The USOC rejected the South Korean’s plea for a duplicate gold medal and is spending about $300,000 to defend Hamm.

“We’re extremely proud of what Paul accomplished,” USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge also rejected an appeal from the South Koreans.

“Our position is extremely simple. The FIG has certified the result of the gymnastics competition. The IOC has awarded the medals according to the certified results,” Rogge said last month. “Paul Hamm was declared the winner and therefore he has received the gold medal, and for us that is final.”

FIG announced Friday it is recommending new rules in response to the gold medal debacle, including the immediate suspension of up to four years for judges who make scoring mistakes. FIG also wants to revise its code of points, an extensive guide to the difficulty value assigned to every move and combination of moves.

“The code of points must be totally revised,” FIG spokesman Philippe Silacci told The Associated Press on Monday.

USA Gymnastics will recommend the use of video replay in the review of start values. The proposals will be considered by FIG next month in Turkey.