China under microscope as cheating rows flare

Agence France-Presse

BEIJING -- Claims of questionable officiating and even cheating flared Wednesday with the Olympic gymnastics, shooting and boxing competitions coming under fire.

Australian veteran shooter Russell Mark alleged that Chinese judges, influenced by a boisterous home crowd, helped local hope Hu Binyuan win the Double Trap bronze medal.

Mark, 44, the Atlanta Games gold medalist who finished fifth in the event here, told Australian media those local judges had awarded a hit to Hu even though he missed the target.

"One of them clearly he missed," Mark was quoted as saying. ?I don't think anyone out there thought he hit it. If that had been for a gold medal, I would have been protesting.?

?The referees have to be in unison but there was a lot of doubt about a lot of the shots out there,? he said. "I'm glad it wasn't for a gold medal because that is all that this Games would have been remembered for unfortunately."

Asked if the judges deliberately ruled in Hu's favor, Mark said: ?I'd hate to think that but you get the feeling out there, when someone clearly misses, all the shooters out there can tell if he missed or hit it. Everybody stopped.?

Mark said the judges may have been influenced by the boisterous crowd of 10,000 that cheered the Chinese shooter on.

"The crowd were yelling and calling shots in and out," he said. "It was like a circus out there. It would have been a brave Chinese judge that would have put his hand up [to signify a miss]."

There was no immediate reaction on Mark's outburst from Games officials or the International Shooting Federation.

Similar claims of hometown advantage were made at the National Indoor Stadium after China beat the United States to the women's team gymnastics gold medal in front of a noisy Chinese crowd.

US team coordinator Martha Karolyi blamed stadium officials for distracting one of their athletes who went on to make crucial mistakes that destroyed their title hopes.

China won its showdown after Alicia Sacramone fell off the balance beam then slipped over during the floor exercise, opening the way for the home team to post a narrow 2.375 point victory.

"First they called her name up, then they did not even put her name up even though the Chinese had finished ... (it was) totally unusual holding," she said.

"She was mentally prepared and then she had a mental break, then after not doing the job on the beam, on the floor exercise her concentration was bothered."

Karolyi insisted the world champion US team would have won gold if Sacramone had not become unsettled.

Judging controversies have also blighted the boxing tournament.

China's Gu Yu caused an upset by defeating Joe Murray, the bantamweight world bronze medalist, on Tuesday but afterwards his camp was adamant he had been on the receiving end of some questionable verdicts.

They implied that the home fighter had been favored.

"I knew what it was going to be like. I've been watching the scoring the past few days and I knew it was bad. So I was expecting it," Murray said.

"They were giving him points for anything but when I was hitting him they were not giving me points," he said.

British head coach Terry Edwards added: "I thought they were very generous to the Chinese lad. You expect a slight bias but you come to the Olympic Games and you also expect a level playing field."

The British weren't the only ones unhappy.

Ukraine appealed against the 10-8 verdict given Monday in favor of China's Hu Qing over its lightweight Oleksandr Klyuchko.

But after a hearing held by the International Amateur Boxing Federation (AIBA), the global governing body, the complaint was dismissed.

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