Originally created 05/04/04

Comaneci defends her perfect 10s



AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Nadia Comaneci defended her perfect 10s in gymnastics at the 1976 Montreal Games after a top Olympic official said the scores were inflated.

Dick Pound, a former IOC vice president, said in his forthcoming book, "Inside the Olympics," that Soviet bloc judges had awarded "slightly higher than normal" marks, hoping to benefit Soviet athletes.

The Romanian-born Comaneci received the first perfect marks in Olympic history for her compulsory routine on the uneven bars. She added six more in events the following days.

The year before, she defeated reigning world champion Ludmilla Tourischeva in the all-around event at the European championships.

"First of all, I think I was not a surprise for the Russian team in Montreal because in 1975 I won against Tourischeva," Comaneci said at the just-completed European championship. "They knew about the 'Comaneci phenomenon' a year before."

Comaneci also pointed out that she received "two 10s three months before in the American Cup." Those were the first perfect marks for a female gymnast.

The Soviets went on to win the team event and Comaneci took gold in the all-around.

Pound, a Canadian lawyer who is head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he was on hand when the marks were given as secretary of the Canadian Olympic Association.

He said in his book that the Soviet bloc had control over the world gymnastics federation and had come up with a strategy "to avoid the embarrassment of losing the team event without overtly unfair marking of the Romanian gymnasts or patently obvious over-scoring of the Soviets."

"The Soviet bloc agreed that it would start the marking of athletes at the bottom of the competition slightly higher than normal."

"When it came to the uneven parallel bars, there was no alternative to show the obvious difference between the Soviets and Comaneci but to give her a 10, even though the difference in performance was greater than the difference in the marks. But, of course, they could go no higher and could hardly be publicly faulted for not giving her more than a perfect mark."