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  Saturday, February 16, 2002

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Mary Lu's Editorial Blog:
Seeking Justice and Fairness for All
The events surrounding the unethical influence and fixing of the 2002 Olympic Pairs event this week have finally ripped the veil off all of the judges and national federations backroom deal-making. It has gone on for years. And now the public spotlight is squarely on the judging of Figure Skating and will force the International Skating Union (ISU) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to publicly investigate judging problem and correct the problems.  
Or so we can hope and pray.
However-- should the ISU and the IOC choose not correct this problem, or try to sweep it under the rug, Figure Skating will lose the public's confidence and support. And the IOC will have no choice but to remove Figure Skating as a Winter Olympics sport.
I personally urge every person who loves Figure Skating: skater, parent, coach, journalist, and the public to stay on the ISU and IOC's case about this situation. 
Never let the ISU or the IOC EVER forget that a group of unethical judges were swayed to throw an OLYMPIC EVENT.
Brent Ashley  said he was confused about why the French Judge is getting all the flack for her decision. And thought the other judges had a fixed position... (you might want to read Brent's question.)
Brent,  The investigation isn't over yet.  The ISU isn't going to get off that easy by hanging only Ms. Le Gougne out to dry. There appears to me more suspensions in order and may include officials of the French, Russian and Chinese National Federations. While Marie-Reine Le Gougne has gotten the majority of the publicity and now has been suspended. I suspect the investigation will eventually prove that the Russian and Chinese National Federations collaborated with the French Skating Federation. It appears the French National Skating Federation's President was the ultimate villain that ultimately put the pressure on the Ms. Le Gougne.  I'll explain more about judging tomorrow. (Promise)
Where Do We Go From Here?
I'm going to go way out on a limb and what I normally would only be saying to my other skating friends and family, out of the way of the press and other international officials, because I truly do believe the time has come to say *my* peace.
First, I believe Ottavio "Speedy" Cinquanta, ISU Council President has got to go.  His arrogant behavior to the Skate Canada (the Canadian Figure Skating Association) and his stonewalling Dr. Jack Rogge and the IOC was one of the major reasons it took so long for this matter to be resolved and turned it into a media circus. Speedy was more interested in getting his 15 minutes of fame, vs.. taking care of the sport he has been entrusted to preside. Cinquanta understands speed skating (both short and long track,) very well, but Speedy has publicly admitted a lack of understanding of Figure Skating and Synchronized Skating.  So, if the guy at the top is clueless about the sport he is supposed to be overseeing as President of the Federation, how in the hell will he be able to explain the problems and make anyone else understand?
There are a lot of other rumors on this guy-- but do remember one of the top dance teams in the world is also Italian.  Where's Speedy from?  Ah yeah-- Italy.
Second, Judging has to change. 
For those of you who don't know-- judges who judge Figure Skating events like local, regional, national and international ISU skating competitions get paid nothing to judge competitions. Most judges do it for because they honesty love the sport of Figure Skating and want to participate. Many judges are former skaters, coaches, and educated non skaters who have put in thousands of hours to get a shot at being selected to be an Olympic or Internationally Certified Judge. These judges at the Olympics are doing it for nothing more than the airfare, lodging and expenses to attend all or a portion of "The Games."
However it's how judges are selected (especially on an international level,) that may very likely be at the heart of the problem. The current selection of Figure Skating is directly hooked to the National Skating Federations of each and every country who belongs to the ISU. These National Federations have great control over the judges, because every country has the "Right of Selection" of the judges who will represent that country on an international level. 
Many skaters agree it is time the judges be paid by the competition organizers for their time, in addition to there normal expenses.  
Judges should be selected at random from a pool of qualified judges who have been screened by a panel of judges and officials. The details will have to be worked out on this selection process, but I highly suggest the ISU look at how Competitive Artistic Roller Skating, (yes ice folks take a deep breath and swallow your pride,) and see how the USA or International  Roller Sports groups do their selection process for a good set of guidelines that have been working for nearly 30 years without a scandal.
In the end it may be that the judges will need to form their own federation completely neutral of nationality, but be associated with the ISU.
And finally--
The International Skating Union needs to grow up and join the modern world.  In order to regain the public's trust in the sport being conducted in a fair and equal manner, the ISU is going to need to open itself up to the public and openly cooperate with the International Olympic Committee. No more closed door, political two-way conversations that say nothing.  They need to elect a leader who will invoke the best interest of the sport AND the public trust.
This means the ISU must be accountable to the skater-members as well as the public by posting its ISU Rules and Regulations, meeting transcripts, and committee notes to everyone on the Internet. Most ISU meetings need to be open to all of its members and outside organizations such as the IOC.
In the near future the ISU needs to open itself to a complete outside investigation of the judging scandal at the SLC Winter Olympics, correct any problems that happened to all parties involved, and form a plan to move forward and embrace the public's trust.
We can only hope the ISU gets its act together. RSN (real soon now.)
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5:52:40 AM    

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