U.S., Canada figure skate federation presidents should step away from judging

U.S., Canada figure skate federation presidents should step away from judging

The late Sydney J. Harris, an esteemed syndicated columnist, would frequently write stories under the rubric, “Things I Learned On My Way To Looking Up Other Things.”

I’m borrowing Mr. Harris’ catchphrase for this column, which grew out of things I was reminded of while reporting a story about the ethical questions surrounding Skate Canada’s welcome gift to skaters, judges and officials at the Canadian leg of the figure skating Grand Prix series last month in Regina, Saskatchewan.

What I learned is no secret, but it raises more ethical questions about the governance and judging of figure skating.

This case involves the indefensible decision to allow presidents of national figure skating federations to be international judges, in apparent contradiction of the conflict-of-interest language in the International Skating Union’s code of ethics.

The president of U.S. Figure Skating, Samuel Auxier, and of Skate Canada, Leanna Caron, each is an active international judge.  It makes them unique among current leaders of the national federations that consistently have medal-contending athletes.

That is akin to having the general manager of a football or baseball team act as a game official.

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With tweaks, proposed figure skating changes make sense

With tweaks, proposed figure skating changes make sense

It used to be that the start of the Grand Prix Series marked the start of a figure skating season.

The first Grand Prix event of this Olympic season still is three weeks away, but so much already happened, on the ice in Challenger Series events and away from it with discussions of change in format and scoring, that it’s already time to offer some observations on the sport’s present and future.

I will do it in two parts, one today and one tomorrow.

Let’s start with some thoughts on the potential scoring and program changes I revealed in an icenetwork exclusive Sept. 11.  A top International Skating Union official called the changes "radical" and part of an effort to help figure skating regain some of its past popularity after its rapid decline everywhere but Asia, especially Japan, without whose fans the sport would be reeling toward irrelevance.

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Gailhaguet, once banned from sport, as skating federation boss? Mon Dieu!

Gailhaguet, once banned from sport, as skating federation boss?   Mon Dieu!

Some people within the figure skating world – including many fans, coaches, administrators and ex-competitors - cannot wait until Friday.

That is when the International Skating Union will conclude its biennial congress by electing a successor to Italy’s Ottavio Cinquanta, who has presided over the ISU since 1994.

Many blame Cinquanta for not having done more to halt figure skating’s precipitous decline in popularity in both North America and Europe, the recent Russian revival notwithstanding.  (If so, shouldn’t he get also some credit, even second-handedly, for the booming interest in Japan and South Korea?)

Among those critics, a favorite target is the obtuse, overly complicated New Judging System Cinquanta succeeded in getting adopted after the pairs skating imbroglio at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics (where, by the way, the judges had the result right the first time, no matter how loudly Canadians whined or what behind-the-scenes dirty dealings took place in efforts to predetermine the outcome.)

Given the Salt Lake fallout, it is astonishing what might happen in Friday’s election.

The sport (and its ice cousins, short and long track speed skating) can choose as president France’s Didier Gailhaguet, linchpin of attempts to corrupt the results of the 2002 Olympic pairs and dance competitions.

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