February 08, 2006

We Need a Little Humour Here

After the last two posts, I'm in the mood for something a little lighter. And since it's winter, that means more thoughts on figure skating (the dysfunctional sports get all the attention, don't they?)

Let's get the shocking news out of the way first: Michelle Kwan did satisfy the monitoring committee, and made the Olympic team last week. That's good news for the marketers at Coca Cola, who have otherwise been having a bad month.

Last week the Ottawa Sun ran a "four years later" feature on Canadian skaters David Pelletier and Jamie Sale titled The unsolved mystery of Skategate. You remember Skategate — crooked judges, fixed outcomes, and eventually two gold medals in pairs? Well, for 2006, the ISU has introduced a completely new scoring system that could never, ever be manipulated by corrupt judges, they promise.

Incredibly, one of the aforementioned crooked judges from 2002 is taking credit for the new scoring system. French judge Marie-Reine La Gougne, currently serving a suspension after admitting that she altered her scores for the 2002 pairs competition, had this to say:

World skating has paid me homage. I saw it at the Trophee Bompard [in November] when the judges came to see me and said: "Marie-Reine, the new scoring system is so great, thank you Marie-Reine because without you there would not have been a new scoring system."

And without all those people who steal gas, we wouldn't have the convenience of paying at the pump! Le Gougne now claims that she didn't manipulate her vote, and that she was made a scapegoat over the issue. Here, too, she's good for an entertaining quote:

The ISU had only one option, to justify the awarding of the second gold medal. So, obviously, the poor French judge was going to get it with both barrels. I was a lightweight … politically, on a sporting level, ethically, morally, financially.

Now, Le Gougne does have a point. She is an ideal scapegoat, since she is barely coherent in public and seems almost blissfully self-unaware. The ISU has put a band-aid on this issue, but nobody really believes that the problem has gone away. A few weeks ago the The Globe and Mail ran a good story about the legal battle between the USFSA and the upstart World Skating Federation. The WSF was created by a former US figure skating judge and an administrator, who together helped blow the lid off the Skategate scandal. As a reward for their whistleblowing, they've been drummed out of the ISU, and banned from judging. The article is now available by registration only, but here's a segment:

The incident is an example of how people in power in the figure skating world operate, Jackson said. "That's how fear and intimidation works," he said. "It really does keep people quiet." Last March, the ISU barred Jackson and Pfenning from membership because of their roles in forming the WSF. It also barred four other former officials and judges for similar roles.

All six had a role in exposing the corruption at Salt Lake. Pfenning was the referee of the pairs panel and reported the wrongdoing of French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who has finished her suspension and is free to work again as a skating official, except at the Turin Olympics. Jackson was the assistant team leader for the U.S. figure skating team at Salt Lake and witnessed Le Gougne's outburst in which she claimed she was forced to barter a gold medal for the French dance team in exchange for a gold for Russians in the pairs competition.

Jackson has been disturbed that the Russians were never punished for their alleged role in the scandal.

You have to laugh, or cry.

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