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  Thursday, February 14, 2002

The Latest News--A picture named saltlake2002sm.jpg

It's leaked out to the media that it was suggested in the Executive Meeting that the Board of Directors throw out the scores of the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne and the scores of the Alternate Judge be used for the entire event.  That would mean the medal would be awarded to the Canadian team.  The Board rejected that idea.

It looks like they're leaning toward awarding a dual set of Gold Medals.

The ISU's Discussion Boards are still turned off.  Amazing. I'm beginning to wonder if it's to shut off the flaming they're getting OR Is the ISP's server really swamped? 

*Request for help--  I need a little help on setting up a couple things for this weblog.  If any of you Radio/Frontier People who could help me get some of this set up right got an hour-- I'd love to talk to you. Just Click on that little yellow envelope on the left.

1:11:13 PM    

Skating Diva: A picture named saltlake2002sm.jpgShit Is Hitting the Fan in Salt Lake City

It's normal for me to take a deep breath in order to get my bearings when an event of this magnitude happens. However the phrase "Politics makes strange bedfellows" even more disturbing. The judging of the Pairs Event has deeply disturbed me, both as a skater and as a former judge. 

It has shaken the bedrock of competitive Figure Skating: The Integrity and Ethics of the Fair and Impartial Judging.

My phone's been ringing off the hook since Monday night.  Many skaters I know both in SLC and at home are completely stunned at the outcome of Monday night's pairs event. On Tuesday I honestly wondered aloud to another skater on the phone, "...Just how long (insert name here,) do you think it's going to take for the rest of the story to start leaking out of Salt Lake City?"  It appears the dam is crumbling fast.  With the international outcry, the ISU (International Skating Union,) isn't going to get the opportunity sweep this one under the rug, because the new IOC President, Francois Carrard, has officially stepped to the plate and told the ISU  “We are concerned for the athletes. It is our concern that this be settled expeditiously.”

Translation: Fix it-- NOW! Or WE will. 

However there is nothing in the Official ISU Rulebook that covers correcting the outcome of an event tainted or fixed by biased judging. So this is going to require a lot creative thinking on the part of ISU Chairman, Ottavio Cinquanta, whom we have heard from inside sources in SLC, is flying more trial-balloons of "what if's" than politician running for Governor of State of California.

The Facts as I know them now--

Neither the Russian team of Anton Sikarulidze and Elena Berezhnaya or the Canadian team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier are at fault. Both teams are suffering from the spotlight this situation has put them in. Neither team can enjoy and savor the moment of their victory or even privately lick their wounds of defeat. I personally feel a great deal of empathy for both teams, and congratulate them for conducting themselves with class and grace in a difficult time.

However-- the problem lies within the conduct of one or more of the judges fixing the event.

The original complaint of biased judging was issued almost immediately after the competition by Ron Pfenning, of the USA and Chief Referee of the pairs event to the Chairmen of the ISU, Ottavio Cinquanta. Ron isn't talking and due to the Rules forbidding it, as well as the magnitude of this problem going into uncharted waters. Pfenning has hired an attorney and won't be talking until this is resolved. Smart move on his part. Ron may turn out to be the hero of this situation.  I personally applaud him for having the courage and honor to do the right thing.

Here's what happens next: According to Standard Operating Procedures-- once Referee Pfenning has lodged his complaint/report, a Special Committee Meeting of Judges and Officials from the ISU convenes. Call it Peer Review. Because this is where the judges are required to individually explain to the committee, their marks and reason for their scores and final placement.  (FYI: Judges are required to take notes for themselves.) Also should a judges behavior, (Code of Conduct,) be called into question-- this committee meeting is where shit hits the fan.  Judges can be disciplined or banned from judging. In its history this committee has never reversed the final placement of the winners.

However, something happened that's never been made public before--

It appears in interviews with French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, it came to light that she had a conversation with Russian Judge, Vladislav Petukhov,where she admitted that she was "influenced" to support the Russian pair's team of Anton Sikarulidze and Elena Berezhnaya, so that the Russian dance judge would support the French dance team to place (medal) in the dance event, which will take place next week. There are no French judges scheduled to judge that event.

Again-- let me state plainly: This was done without the knowledge of either Anton Sikarulidze and Elena Berezhnaya. However, I'm personally not so sure about their coach Tamara Moskvina, especially after her comment after the event. Tamara's a very slick operator, and while her English isn't perfect-- I'm not willing to give her the complete benefit of the doubt at the moment.

So where does this leave us now?

About two hours after the ISU had their press conference on Wednesday, Mike Chambers head of the Canadian Team held his own press conference to announce they were filing an Official Appeal, based on the information of the ISU press conference and other conversations reported.  This makes it all "VERY OFFICIAL" that Skate Canada and the Canadian Olympic Team is taking this "Breach of Conduct," (remember that Olympic Officials Oath?) and puts the ball squarely in the lap of the ISU and the IOC. Chambers further requested a completely independent investigation of the judging of the event, which definitely puts the whole problem into the IOC's lap.  Canada wants this matter resolved before the end of the Games.

Text of letter from the Canadian Olympic Association, to Ottavio Cinquanta, president of the International Skating Union:

Dear Mr. Cinquanta,

The Canadian Olympic Association is very disturbed by the results in the pairs free program competition. It was apparent in our view that for whatever reason, the marks of the judges did not reflect accurately the actual performances. We know you are also aware of the negative public reaction to the results of the pair event and we support your quick action in conducting an internal assessment.

However, we, the Canadian Olympic Association, believe that in order to do justice for the athletes who have competed in this event at these Olympics and who will compete in the future an independent inquiry that would be charged with the authority to review the judging processes and procedures within your sport is necessary. We respectfully suggest to you that in order for such a review to have credibility with the athletes, the coaches and the public at large it must be independently structured.

We call upon the International Skating Union (ISU) to establish this independent review process at the earliest date possible so that recommendations can be acted upon as soon as possible.

The sport of figure skating is too important a part of the Olympic Games to be put at risk through unfair judging. We encourage quick action and full disclosure of the results of this external review in order to restore the faith of athletes and the public in the sport of figure skating.

Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Association.


We can only hope, Mike.

Even the French Figure Skating Association's President, Didier Gailhaguet, has started spinning his own web, by labeling Judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne, as "emotionally fragile, under pressure... and somewhat manipulated." WHAT?  Who are they kidding? In the Figure Skating world, judges are trained to be solid and self assured in our decisions. It is beat it into the heads of every student judge in the world to be IMPARTIAL and ETHICAL. Obviously what I'm hearing, Ms. Le Gougne from missed that lesson.

Also the scuttle is that the French are sending Marie home ASAP.  Hmmm-- makes you wonder if she can't handle the hot seat? Do the French not want her around to be a further embarrassment? OR is she really ill?  If so why in the hell was she choosen in the first place?

Also Judge Yang Jiasheng, from China, who judged the pairs event and voted for the Russian team, was supposed to judge the Men's Event has all of a sudden "taken ill" and withdrew from judging the men's event. 

Gee-- is the Salt Lake City Skating Flu going around all of a sudden? Hmm...

From Where I Sit--

Not since trailer-trash Tonya Harding had Nancy Kerrigan whacked in Cobo Arena has there been as much controversy in the hallowed halls of Figure Skating. It's sure good for the ratings, but not for the sport. Not that there hasn't been politically-biased judging before.

(Insert list of screwed over skaters here.... Ah-- May be not. It's a real long list. Frank Carroll has sure said his peace on this subject in the past 24 hours. Amen.  )

The only difference between this and the other times: Someone talked. Oops.

This situation has enraged so many fans and skaters that it has created so much controversy that the Discussion Boards on the ISU's website had to be shutdown tonight. Poor Dennis, their webmaster. He sure as hell didn't buy into this one.

My best guess is that the ISU is going to cave into the pressure of the IOC at the ISU's Executive Committee Meeting on Feb. 18th. This is where Skate Canada's Official Appeal will be presented to the ISU. The ISU knows the IOC as well as the entire world is going to be watching them very closely.  Furthermore the ISU knows the IOC is looking for a reason to remove expensive and subjectively judged sports like Figure Skating. They can't afford to suffer the lack of public and corporate support this type of scandal gives the Olympics, and the ISU and IOC know if it isn't fixed RSN.

In the end-- Some judges are going to banned. Some judges are going to be disciplined. The ISU is going to promise to clean up its act, and may be if we get lucky bring in a real outside audit procedure to insure fair judging of the events and launch a new ethics program.  We can only hope. In the end I suspect, ISU Chairmen, Ottavio Cinquanta is going press the Executive Committee to write new rules governing the judges, and they will award an additional Gold Medal in Pairs to Sale and Pelletier. This will happen right after the Executive Committee Meeting on Monday, Feb 18th and/or they will wait and present it to Sale and Pelletier at the Exhibition of Champions on Feb. 20th..

We can only hope.

PS-- To those of you who linked here i.e. Dave Winer, Robert Scoble, John RobbDan Berlinger and  the free radical -- Thanks!

5:20:47 AM    

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