EXCLUSIVE: Suspended once, international figure skate judge under investigation again

A Belarusian figure skating judge who recently served a suspension for violation of the International Skating Union’s code of ethics is under investigation again, Globetrotting has learned.

Alexander Lakernik of Russia, the International Skating Union’s highest ranking figure skating official, said in an email that the ISU is “investigating the irregularities at the the Golden Spin of Zagreb.”  That Challenger Series competition took place Dec. 6-9 in Zagreb, Croatia.

Sources have told Globetrotting that actions by Belarusian judge Alexandre Gorojdanov are at the center of the investigation.  Gorodjanov had been selected to judge both parts of the senior ice dance event at Golden Spin but was replaced for the free dance, with no reason given.

On the 2017-18 ISU officials list, Gorojdanov is designated as an international referee and ISU judge for singles and pairs and an ISU referee for ice dance.  The ISU designation is the highest level of qualification.  He is the only Belarusian qualified as an ISU championship judge in ice dance.

Lakernik, ISU vice-president for figure skating, would not confirm directly that Gorojdanov was being investigated, but he said in a reply to an earlier Globetrotting email mentioning the judge by name, “As you know, the ISU investigates every case of irregularities/violations of Rules and/or Code of Ethics at our Events, including the one mentioned in your letter.”

Another judge at the competition, who was not working the dance event, became so concerned about Gorojdanov’s actions during the short dance that he shot video of what he saw happening.  That led to a theater-of-the-absurd situation in which a coach angered by the filming took video of the judge taking video of the judging panel.

Globetrotting has obtained a 27-second clip from the video (see above), in which Gorojdanov is second from the right.  That clip, shot while the judges were finishing the marking of U.S. team Rachel and Michael Parsons, shows Gorojdanov using his judge’s screen in a way that suggests he could have been re-entering or changing marks.  During that process, he dropped a piece of paper into a basket, picked it out again and appeared to be writing something on it.  He also appeared to be talking to the judge on his right, Russia’s Maria Abasova (far right).   It is unclear whether she was speaking as well.

Under rule 430 (f) of the ISU Special Regulations & Technical Rules, Single & Pair Skating and Ice Dance,  judges cannot discuss their "marks or decisions and marks or decisions of other Officials during the competition with any person other than the Referee and/or, for members of the Technical Panel only, the other members of the Technical Panel of the part of the discipline in which they are serving."

Near the end of the video, the event referee, Leslie Keen of Canada (far left), is seen leaning back to look  toward Gorojdanov.

Two people familiar with the scoring screens and the way they are used said the video indicated Gorojdanov changed his marks after looking at another judge’s screen and then changed what he previously had entered by hand on the paper scoring sheet he retrieved from the basket.  Another judge who watched the video at Globetrotting’s request said he found “most disturbing” the retrieval of the paper from the basket and the shots of Gorojdanov talking to another judge.

Similar amateur video showing judge Walter Toigo of Italy looking at other judges' screens at a 2010 Junior Grand Prix event was accepted by the ISU as evidence that helped lead to Toigo's two-year suspension in 2011.

Keen did not return phone messages or an email message seeking comment.  The person who took the video did not respond to an email.  The Belarusian Skating Federation did not respond to messages seeking comment. 

 Halina Gordon-Poltorak of Poland, chair of the ISU ice dance technical committee and the person whom the referee would likely have first informed about the issue, emailed a few hours after this story was posted to “confirm there is an investigation and at this stage I am sorry but I am not authorized to give any comments.”  

“As soon as the investigation is over and the decision is taken, I will be able to comment on that,” Lakernik wrote.  “At the moment such comments are premature.”

In an ISU decision based on his inaction as a pairs referee at the 2016 Ondrej Nepala Memorial, the international federation had suspended Gorodjanov from January 13 through June 30 of this year because he “has violated the duties of a referee and the ISU Code of Ethics.”  The ISU hearing on the case concluded Gorojdanov had failed to act on possible rules violations by two judges both when they occurred and also after they had been brought up in the round table officials discussion that follows figure skating events.

Less than four months after the suspension ended, Gorojdanov judged women, pairs and dance at the Rostelecom Cup event on the Grand Prix circuit.

Belarus did not qualify to have a judge at the 2018 Olympics but will have one in the pairs and ice dance events at the 2018 European Championships as well as one in men's singles and ice dance at the 2018 World Junior Championships.