The Figure Skating Federation of Russia included Didier Gailhaguet on its list of official invitees to a major event next weekend in St. Petersburg even though Gailhaguet, the French skating federation president, was banned from the sport for his role in the cheating scandal at last February's Olympic Games.
The scandal led to the indictment last summer of a reputed Russian mobster.
In a letter dated Jan. 20 on Russian federation stationery to the French Ice Sport Federation, Gailhaguet is among 10 invitees to the sport's season finale, and one of two who are listed as "officials." Gailhaguet was banned last April by the International Skating Union from attending any ISU-sanctioned events in an official capacity for three years.
Sylvie Pulcini, the French federation official to whom the letter is addressed, said she had specifically requested the letter because Gailhaguet wanted to attend the Feb. 26-March 2 event -- as a spectator -- and required an invitation in order to acquire a visa from the Russian embassy in France. She said Gailhaguet intended to pay his own travel expenses and purchase a ticket for the event.
The letter, signed by the Russian federation vice-general secretary Gallina Golubkova, indicates that the Russians will pay all expenses for the listed officials. Golubkova could not be reached.
"In France, if you don't have an official invitation from the Russian federation, you don't have a visa," Pulcini said. "Because he wants to go to the competition, he needs a visa."
Only one French skater, Pascal Joubert, will be competing, but two judges, two coaches, two officials, one chaperone, one assistant referee and one ISU official from France have also been invited.
ISU General Secretary Fredi Schmid said he was not aware of the letter before yesterday and intended to "clarify this letter with the Russian federation . . . [so] we can really be sure there is no misunderstanding."
Schmid said Gailhaguet was free to attend the event as a spectator but that he would be barred from attending in an official capacity and would not be issued accreditation.
"It's our event," Schmid said. "We control whether he will be accredited in an official category or not. . . . The ISU, not the Russian federation, handles all of the accreditation."
Gailhaguet attended several events late last year, including the Trophee Lalique Grand Prix event, as a spectator. However, he was chastised by the ISU for showing up to an ISU officials dinner -- an off-limits function -- at a junior grand prix event in France late last summer.
The ISU issued the ban on Gailhaguet for allegedly conspiring with French and Russian officials to fix the outcomes of the ice dance and pairs competitions at last year's Olympics in Salt Lake City. Last summer, reputed Russian mobster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was indicted on federal charges of attempting to fix the Olympics by engineering a deal between Russian and French officials.
Gailhaguet displays in his office a bottle of whiskey enclosed in an ornately painted case that was given to him by Tokhtakhounov, but said he has never had any inappropriate dealings with him. Gailhaguet has vehemently denied playing a part in any event-fixing schemes.