ATHENS, Greece – Last night, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) received a letter from Mr. Bruno Grandi, President of the Federation Internationale De Gymnastique (FIG). The letter was in reference to the continuing controversy surrounding the final results of the Individual Men”s All-Around, which was won by Mr. Paul Hamm of the United States.
The USOC views this letter as 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 the Federation. The USOC finds this request to be improper, outrageous and so far beyond the bounds of what is acceptable that it refuses to transmit the letter to Mr. Hamm.
The USOC has informed the FIG of this and requested that it immediately withdraw its letter.
It is the opinion of the USOC that Mr. Hamm did exactly what an Olympic champion should do: he performed to the best of his ability, he competed within the rules of his sport, and he accepted his gold medal with pride, honor and dignity.
The USOC had two lengthy telephone conversations last night with Mr. Hamm, his parents and his representatives. During these conversations, the USOC expressed its unwavering support for Mr. Hamm and indicated it will aggressively resist any attempt by any party to lay claim to his gold medal.
As stated repeatedly by Mr. Grandi and stipulated by the FIG rules, Paul Hamm is the Olympic gold medallist and Olympic champion in the 2004 Individual Men”s All-Around. The USOC shares this point of view and finds any attempt by the FIG to pressure Mr. Hamm, or any athlete, into resolving a dispute not of their creation both unacceptable and irresponsible.
The letter from FIG also indicates the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is supportive of the FIG position. However, conversations between the USOC and the IOC, as recently as this morning, indicate exactly the opposite. In fact, the IOC and its President, Dr. Jacques Rogge, have expressed displeasure over the fact the FIG would even consider placing an athlete in such an untenable position and strongly stated they do not support the letter or its contents.
When representatives of the Korean Olympic Committee suggested the awarding of a second gold medal as a possible remedy for this situation, the USOC expressed a willingness to consider this should the appropriate governing authorities – namely the FIG and IOC – find this acceptable. However, in light of this most recent and unacceptable maneuver by the FIG, as well as concern expressed by the IOC, this is no longer an option the USOC will consider.
The USOC considers this matter closed and looks forward to celebrating the tremendous success of the Athens Games and the inspiring performances of athletes from around the world, not the least of which is that of Olympic champion Paul Hamm.
“We are extremely proud of Paul Hamm and all he has accomplished,” said USOC Chair Peter Ueberroth. “His comeback in the Individual Men”s All-Around is emblematic of the spirit of an Olympic champion. In the face of adversity, he refused to give up and battled to earn his Olympic gold medal. Now, faced with more adversity, he will again not give up, and he will have the full support of the United States Olympic Committee with him.”
“As stewards of the Olympic movement, we all share a responsibility to protect, not sacrifice, the interests of athletes,” said USOC Chief Executive Jim Scherr. “We encourage Mr. Grandi and other officials within FIG who saw this as an appropriate remedy to begin taking this responsibility more seriously.”