From U.S. figure skating, no explanation of how it could abrogate world meet selection rules

The Chicago Jazz in their free skate at last month's Junior National Championships.  (Jay Adeff photo courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating.)

The Chicago Jazz in their free skate at last month's Junior National Championships.  (Jay Adeff photo courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating.)

When the World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships begin Friday in Mississauga, Ont., one of the two U.S. teams that should be competing will be sitting at home.

Why?  Because U.S. Figure Skating came up with some kind of justification, which it has not revealed, for abrogating its own rules.  Those rules may have been poorly written, but they left no doubt about one of the teams that belongs at the junior worlds, as I first pointed out in a story posted Feb. 17.

The rules say that in the case of both senior and junior synchro world championship selections, the teams “must include the current U.S. champion.”  (The emphasis is mine.)

The team left out, the Chicago Jazz, was the current U.S. champion when the selections were made.

Based on that, the Jazz filed a grievance with USFS.

I learned last week the grievance was denied and, since then, I have been trying without success via multiple emails to get an official USFS response about the situation.

The Jazz apparently chose not to take their complaint to the next level, a U.S. Olympic Committee Article IX grievance, out of concern such an action could be held against them in the future in a subjectively judged sport.

"We followed it to grievance at USFS and at that point we accepted findings," said Mike Nardella, the Jazz president, in an email Thursday.

So far, the federation has chosen not to reveal what those findings were.

That USFS tried to make up rules on the fly to deny the Jazz a place at the world junior was evident in a letter sent in response to an initial request from the Jazz for an explanation of the selection decision.

In that response, signed by USFS administrative / legal group coordinator Steve Wolkin and synchronized management subcommittee chair Robin Greenleaf, the final paragraph says, “In other words, ICR 5.15(A) provides that the Junior World Synchronized Skating Team must include the current U.S. Champion that is determined currently at the Junior World Qualifier.”

In fact, in the 2016-17 edition of the USFS Rulebook, there is no mention under any ICR (International Competition Rule) of the U.S. champion being determined by the qualifier, which took place two weeks before the 2017 U.S. Championships.  USFS announced the world team Feb. 13, two days after the qualifier.

USFS can rewrite the rules to conform to whatever intention it wants.  For next season.  What the letter used as a rationale comes off as nothing more than a bold-faced distortion of the facts.  (Or, in common parlance, a lie.)

And then there was the conflict-of-interest involved in having three members of the USFS synchronized management subcommittee as judges in the qualifier.  That committee also picks the world meet teams.

USFS spokesperson Barb Reichert could not confirm at the time of my previous story if any or all of the three judges in question recused themselves from selection discussions.

It is telling that USFS has not provided an explanation of its decision, no matter that none would explain away the rules.  There is, truth be told, no explanation for how indefensible the USFS actions in this matter have been.  You can't play by the rules only when that is convenient.