[This was written this week while the Radio Userland Server was having problems. I'm posting it now after speaking with other skating friends about the ISU's Board of Inquiry over the Judging Problems at 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Pairs Event. Tomorrow I'll post my real opinion.]
And People Wonder Why I Quit Skating...
The Board of Inquiry, AKA the Kangaroo Court convened at the International Skating Union Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday and Tuesday this week to investigate the judging scandal involving judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne and French Skating Association President Didier Gailhaguet and their conduct regarding the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Pairs Event.
Typical for the ISU, no media were invited. Neither were any other officials, skaters or coaches to represent the members of the sport. I'd say the ISU is a little gun shy considering how Christine Brennan of USA Today has been talking to other judges who have said Gailhaguet attempted to influence their votes at previous championships. But Brennan is not the only one putting the heat on the ISU to clean up its act. There are literally hundreds of skaters, past and present, who have voiced the concern this situation be corrected immediately in order to renew the public's faith in the sport.
However the closed door Board of Inquiry went on as scheduled, and people who have taken time out of their "normal lives" have testified and began to talk to other skaters about what took place, despite the ISU's stance such a hearing is "confidential."
At this point here is what we know...
The ISU heard testimony from 13 witnesses, nearly all made allegations against Le Gougne or Gailhaguet.
Prior to the Hearing attorneys for French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne released a letter they sent to the ISU attacking the decision to suspend Le Gougne and award the Canadian pair team a second Olympic gold medal. Arguments in the letter include statements such as the following: That Le Gougne was suspended without evidence. That even without Le Gougne's marks the panel still had the Russian pair first. That interviews during the ISU investigation were biased, and that the ISU refused to hear allegations that Sally Stapleford pressured Le Gougne to accuse Didier Gailhaguet of influencing her vote. The letter also said the decision of the ISU to award a second gold medal was made under pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and North American media.
Olympic pair referee Ron Pfenning and Jon Jackson, both testified at the hearing as witnesses to French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne confession of pressure by her federation, and requested that the ISU Council bar U.S. council member Claire Ferguson from the ISU hearing on Monday April 29th. The two claim that at last month's World Championships in Japan, Ferguson said that she had not seen all the evidence against Le Gougne and French federation chief Didier Gailhaguet, however she felt that Gailhaguet acted the same way as many other federation heads and should receive a light penalty.
Bruce Edwards, SLC volunteer driver for Gailhaguet during the Olympics, testified he heard Gailhaguet engage in a "suspicious" conversation while talking with a Russian woman on his cell phone on Feb. 9. "I can't tell you exactly what he said. . . . It sounded like he was planning something,"
Letters were sent to the ISU Board of Inquiry from Swiss judge Christine Blanc saying that in November, at Skate Canada International, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne said she would vote for the Russian pair team over the Canadian pair team at the Olympic Games. She also testified.
Alain Miquel, another French judge has accused French Federation President Didier Gailhaguet of pressuring his vote. Miquel said Gailhaguet instructed him on how to mark the French, Russian and German pairs at the 1998 World Championships.
Other judges have written letters stating Le Gougne's behavior at other championships she has judged. None are very flattering and repeatedly express how Le Gougne says she is "under so much pressure."
The ISU council deliberated for five hours before coming to their decision and by late Tuesday handed out their judgement. Here is the direct text of their decision:
On April 29 and 30, 2002 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Council of the ISU, in continuation of the disciplinary enquiry commenced in Salt Lake City, held a hearing at which further evidence was heard and presented.
Following this hearing the Council has evaluated all the evidence and arrived at the following decision, in accordance with rule 104, paragraph 16 of the ISU General Regulations:
1. Ms. Marie Reine Le Gougne is suspended as ISU Referee and Judge and excluded from participation in any ISU event, e.g. ISU Championships, international competitions, exhibitions and all off-ice events, in any capacity for a period of 3 years, beginning on April 30, 2002:
for misconduct committed on February 11, 2002 in violation of ISU rule 426, paragraphs 4 and 5, by giving the pair Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze from Russia first place in the free program of the pairs event of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games upon the instruction of Mr. Didier Gailhaguet, the President of the Fédération Française des Sports de Glace, although in her own opinion the pair Sale/Pelletier from Canada presented a better performance, and
for violation of ISU rule 125, paragraph 3 by not reporting immediately and before the end of the pairs event of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games that Mr. Didier Gailhaguet, the President of the Fédération Française des Sports de Glace and an ISU Council member, had instructed her to give the first place in the pairs event of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games to the pair Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze from Russia.
In addition, Ms. Marie Reine Le Gougne is excluded from participation in any capacity within the ISU in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
2. Mr. Didier Gailhaguet is suspended as an ISU Council member and excluded from participation in any ISU event, e.g. ISU Championships, international competitions, exhibitions and all off-ice events, in any capacity for a period of 3 years, beginning on April 30, 2002:
for misconduct committed by instructing Ms. Marie Reine Le Gougne in his capacity as the President of the Fédération Française des Sports de Glace, which nominated Ms. Marie Reine Le Gougne as judge for the pairs event of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, to give the first place in the pairs event of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games to the pair Berezhnaya /Sikharulidze from Russia.
In addition, Mr. Didier Gailhaguet is excluded from participation in any capacity within the ISU in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
3. An appeal against this decision or any part thereof shall have no postponing effect. (Art.22, paragraph 10 of the ISU Constitution).
The period for filing an appeal shall commence after the reasons for this decision have been received in writing by the persons concerned.
French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne and French Federation President Didier Gailhaguet have each have been found guilty of misconduct and banned from the sport of figure skating for three years each. They are also banned from the 2006 Winter Olympic in Turin, Italy.
The suspensions are effective immediately and will last until April 30, 2005. It is still uncertain if Gailhaguet can remain in charge of the French Skating Federation.
Le Gougne and Gailhaguet plan to appeal the decision. Le Gougne and Gailhaguet both denied any wrongdoing and sought to clear their names. But they claimed they didn't get a fair hearing, maintaining the ISU (specifically ISU President Ottavio "Speedy" Cinquanta,) stacked the case against them to justify the decision to give second gold medals, which they say was done because of pressure from the International Olympic Committee and the American media.
Le Gougne and Gailhaguet have 28 days to file an appeal. They first have to go through the ISU's internal appeals process. Then the case could go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, where the two may not have such a sympathetic jury.
The interesting part is coming... this story isn't over yet.
A TRIANGLE OF PLANETS: As the Sun sets on May 5th, the planets Venus, Saturn and Mars will pop out of the darkening twilight in an eye-catching pattern: a near-perfect triangle measuring 3 degrees on each side. Just below the trio lies elusive Mercury. Be sure to see the innermost planet before it sinks back toward the Sun next week! More: [finder charts: May 4th & May 5th] ["Planet Watchers, Relax"]
SOLAR OUTLOOK: Sunspot 9934, which spans an area equal to the surface of three planet Earths, has developed a twisted delta-class magnetic field. Such fields harbor energy for powerful X-class solar flares. A major eruption could happen in the days ahead. [Thanks to Space Weather.]