Person of the Week: Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov

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Tokhtakhounov is charged with fixing the Olympic ice skating competitions

Talk about a story with legs. Back in February, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games were rocked by allegations that Canadian pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier had been robbed of their rightful gold medal. Both pairs were eventually given gold, but by then the scandal had outraged the world — Oh, the shock of it! Dirty dealings in figure skating! Eventually, interest waned, until this week's exciting tidbit emerged: the Russian mob may have been behind the Olympic scandal from the start. So for resurrecting this tale of ignominy, our person of the week is Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov.

Thursday, Italian officials announced the arrest of Tokhtakhounov, a suspected Russian mobster, on U.S. conspiracy charges filed in Manhattan federal court. It seems that Tokhtahkounov, who denies any wrongdoing, may have been at the heart of the scheme to award figure skating gold to the Russian pair, rather than the Canadians, employing French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne to cast the deciding ballot. A day after the pairs medals were awarded, Le Gougne admitted to buckling under pressure to vote for the Russian pair in exchange for first-place votes for the French ice dancing team. Although she later rescinded her confession, she has been suspended from judging.

Authorities believe Tokhtakhounov may have arranged the fix in favor of the French ice dancing pair in exchange for a visa to return to France. Russian officials call the charges of mafia involvement "fantastic," telling the Associated Press they wouldn't be surprised if the scenario had been manufactured "in Hollywood" to retroactively justify giving two gold medals in the pairs event. Meanwhile, Italian investigators say they nabbed Tokhtakhounov during an organized-crime investigation; they happened to have tapped his phone in February and recorded several conversations with a French man, during which Tokhtakhounov made repeated references to the figure skating competition, and to six skating judges. (The names of the judges — whose voices were never recorded — were not released.)

Not everyone is caught up in this latest twist. While Tokhtakhounov's potential mafia connections added a bit of much-needed media glamour to the cobwebbed story, Sale and Pelletier were not impressed. The cute-as-a-button pair was back on the morning program circuit Thursday, flashing their trademark grins and shrugging off the whole incident. French ice dancing pair Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat were unamused. "Everybody wants to claim a part of our victory for themselves," Peizerat grumbled to the AP. "The judges think it's thanks to them we're champions, top skating officials do too, and now it's the Russian mafia." Hey, buddy: tell it to Tokhtakhounov.

Then again, maybe you should keep it to yourself.