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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 01:30 GMT
Figure skating a farce?
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada were visibly upset by the judges decision
The Canadians and the Russians have now both been awarded gold medals in the Olympics pairs figure skating controversy.

Should the judging be overhauled to avoid future stories of collusion?


Ice skating has been in the spotlight at the Winter Olympics for all the wrong reasons.

Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were awarded gold ahead of the Canadian pairing of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier by a 5-4 majority, despite apparent technical flaws in their performance.

Now the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union have resolved the affair by awarding a second gold to the Canadian pairing.

Have the organisers made the right decision or does the whole sorry tale leave a sour taste?


There was a comment from a person in Scotland who was quite critical about the Canadian Skaters. The issue of the controversy is not about them but about the system. I wonder if that person who disparaged the Canadian skaters has a frozen upper lip because she is living on another planet.
Lawrence, Canada

Having seen the diabolical quadruple gold ceremony on the BBC, I felt very sorry for the Russians, whom I thought were not at fault, and had their Games ruined by the unsporting Canadians. The ISU should never have given in to the media. Why are the Games not taken away from this sleazy city?
Janine, UK

Justice has been done by awarding the Canadians the gold
Santokh Randhawa, Australia

The decision was wrong because the misjudging of the French judge has not been proved yet. Public opinion in the US and Canada says that the Canadians were better, while Russian public opinion considers Russians to be better. That's why we shouldn't rely on public opinion, but on professional judgements and judges. The guilt of the French judge has not been proved! So the decision of the committee is not correct.
Olga, Russia

Watching the two pairs (the Russians and the Canadians) skate, it was obvious to even a layman that the Canadians were better. The Canadians were flawless while the Russians fumbled twice. It came as a shock when the results were announced.

I feel justice has been done by awarding the Canadians the gold. In fact the Russians should have been awarded the silver medal instead of sharing the gold with the better pair.
Santokh Randhawa, Australia

What other sport actively encourages judges to go and watch the competitors before the competition? Just think if football, athletics, swimming - in fact any of the really popular sports - were subject to this kind of pre-competition scrutiny - there'd be a real outcry.
Sara, UK

It is very simplistic (but very typical) for the North Americans to jump to the conclusion that the Canadians deserve the gold because they were flawless. They were flawless - and I agree with Tim (UK) - but robotic. The Russians were far more artistic and I feel sorry for Elena and Anton.
Kanako Noto, Japanese in USA

Skating in Battleship grey costumes, to a programme at least two years old - how much effort did they put into their Olympic bid!
Hazel Marshall, Scotland

Jamie and David need to really look at themselves. What a way to behave - they have probabaly single-handedly removed skating from the Olympics. I am a skater and I truly love my sport but their performance over the past week has shown the worst side of skating.

Mob rule has won! Aside from anything else, Jamie was lucky she was not disqualified before the long programe started - she was entirely responsible for crashing into Anton by not looking where she was going. And David's grandstanding at the end of their performance was disgusting.

They should remember that the judges saw all of that as well. Skating in Battleship grey costumes, to a programme at least two years old - how much effort did they put into their Olympic bid!
Hazel Marshall, Scotland

I cannot say whether the outcome was right or wrong. What disappoints me is that when the same thing happened in Lillehammer, no one batted an eyelid despite our calls for an inquiry. Fortunately, Jayne and Chris were bigger than that, but it's funny how, with the backing of the US, the couple in question are given a gold medal.

If the judging in all figure skating events is not sorted once and for all, then this sport will find itself out of the Games and I, for one will he very sad to see that happen.
Sarah, UK

No matter the type of sports, summer or winter, all sports have some form of judging
John Probasco, USA

The Canadian pairs made no technical mistake, but the Russian pair showed better inspiration, imagination and beauty. The investigation was conducted by the North American media, and if this scandal happened to other developing countries, the result would be different.

It is also not fair to blame theFrench judge at this stage because we do not know the truth and we only know how big a role media is playing there. Furthermore, American judges are well-known for their controversial votes but they can always use their power to insist they give a fair votes.
Angela Rosner, England

Ok, Emily Hopkins. How would you like to have won a gold medal, and have it taken away because the American media jumps on the 'hard done-by' Canadian bandwagon? It wouldn't be too nice would it? But then again it would never happen to you because you are American...
Stephen Rutkowski, Australia

I am very pleased to see that the Canadians now have their deserved gold medal. However in view of the deal we hear about, will France now win the gold in ice-dance, they are in the lead at present!
Elizabeth Lightowlers, Britain

Those who cannot lose, will never win! No doubt that Russian looked more professional and had a more difficult program. To give a second gold to Canadians was an absolutely wrong decision. IOC was pressured by the Canadian and US public. It was a toy to hush the whimpering couple.
Tatiana, Russia

It is disappointing to read name calling against skaters who only went out and skated their best
Linda, Canada

If you do away with all the sports that have judging, there would not be any sports left in the Olympics. No matter the type of sports, summer or winter, all sports have some form of judging.
John Probasco, USA

Arguments about the how and the why will go on forever, each person firmly entrenched in their own opinion. What does that remind you of? It is disappointing, however, to read name calling against skaters (from whatever country) who only went out and skated their best. Both the Russians and the Canadians gave it their all. The rest of us sat and watched. And some of us have somewhat unkindly have made judgements of the personal kind.
Linda, Canada

I think it's totally wrong to allow the Russian couple to retain the gold medals. It's unfair to Canadians.
Emily Hopkins, USA

Let me see if I understand what happened. A French judge admits to being part of a conspiracy to award the gold to the Russians. She is then suspended, and the world worries about who got which medal and why.

I don't mean to spoil the debate, but shouldn't the real issue be; who else is involved? And how can this be prevented from happening again? There can't be a conspiracy of one. And this is the second Olympics with tainted judging in a skating event.
John, Canada

The Canadians were flawless but not inspiring
Shakti, US

I've read the many comments ranging from "disastrous precedent" to "end all subjective sports" to the incredulous "North America wants to rule the world." Some of you desperately need to get a life. It's FIGURE SKATING for God's sake. You should try to get out more this year.
Sam Ward, USA

The Russians may have made one mistake but their program was more difficult and far much more interesting. The Canadians were flawless and not inspiring. I would give gold to the Russians and silver to the Canadians.
Shakti, US

I'm so frightened by all of the animosity towards one another in the world. Can't we all just support one another and raise one another higher. Let's forget the politics. We are all just people trying to do our best.
Kathleen Flaherty, USA

Yes, right decision. Reason? Because this is not about subjectivity in judging as so many previous comments suggest. It is about coercian, collusion and cheating. Of course the judges judge subjectively to some extent. This most certainly does not mean they are allowed to cheat.

You can debate till you're blue in the face about whether subjectively judged sports should be included in the Olympics. The point is whether or not we condone cheating by judges by ignoring it simply because it's the sort of thing that happens in judged sports. The judge admitted to wrong doing for heaven's sake.
Jerry, Canada

The Olympics should remember their motto: citius altius fortius
Peter Verner, New Zealand

How do such stupid "sports" get to be in the Olympics anyway? In a few years time there'll be Synchronised Embroidery On Ice, and some brats will no doubt make a fuss that they didn't win gold even though their needles didn't slip so much.
Bob, Canada

I thought that the object of the Olympics was the taking part not the winning. Who cares who wins really? Much ado over nothing.
Robert, Canada

The Olympics should remember their motto: citius altius fortius, and stage events that reflect only these qualities. That is, they should have only competitions that have a clear competitive outcome, nothing that involves judges whose personal views influence outcomes. If you have ice dancing, why not ballroom dancing?
Peter Verner, New Zealand

The decision to appease the truculent Canadian team goes to show that the Olympics are in grave danger of being overrun by the political media. I may be one of the few, but after 30 years of watching, my instincts tell me the Russians skated with more life, and the Canadians went through a more robotic routine.

It seems once again that the North Americans are determined to rule the world in every pursuit, including sport. I can't recall such a rapid appeasement in any other sport I've seen. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Would Argentina have passed back the world cup if the 'hand of god' decision had been reviewed?
Tim, UK

The result should not have been changed. The Russian skaters developed an original and technically demanding programme, whilst the Canadians recycled an old routine. In my opinion they only lost at the World Championships last year because their brilliant and perfectly executed routine was greeted by near silence by a partisan Canadian audience who in turn raised the noise level to decibel proportions for every simple lift or manoeuvre made by their own pair.

For once the corruption in the sport of figure skating has been exposed
Gurpreet Bhatia, Canada

This clearly influenced the judging but where were Robin Cousins and Jayne Torvill stoking up the controversy on this occasion when the Russians got a raw deal. The anti-Russian institutional bias of the BBC at Skating events is becoming an embarrassment.
Richard, England

To those that are saying leave the results to the judges and let them decide the outcome, this affair goes well beyond that. For once the corruption in the sport of figure skating has been exposed and admitted to by the French judge. Perhaps those that want to see the status quo have the most to lose if fairness really does come into play...
Gurpreet Bhatia, Canada

Bravo! The decision to share the gold is right. Now we need to clean up the ISU, starting with France and those that conspired with her.
Henry Damsma, Canada

I think that figure skating is an important part of the Olympic tradition. But I think that there has been clear favouritism shown to Russian skaters over the years, and also to skaters of all countries based on their individual popularity (including my own). Sometimes the victories are deserved, sometimes not.

Yes, this leaves a sour taste in the mouths of skating enthusiasts, but not nearly so much so as the abrasive comments made by Valentin Piseyev. He stands alone as the only poor sport in this situation.

The scoring needs to be completely revised, to have only knowledgeable, paid judges used to judge the technical component, and deductions need to be specific and concrete. The ordinal system should be eliminated. The artistic component judged by those who evaluate and create these things for a living, such as dancers, choreographers etc. The artistic component cannot be removed because it would damage skating.
Nikki, US

The media has turned this into North America vs Russia and that's so ridiculous


Prohibit tennis then, because the machine still can't decide did the ball touch the line or not - the decision is made by judges.

After you exclude gymnastics, figure skating, synchronous swimming etc, some people will stop to watch sport at all. Probably it would be extremely difficult to persuade them that other sport activities are more interesting, because they can be precisely measured.
Vadim, Canada

The result was fair. The Canadians deserved that gold medal. For once, the ISU responded appropriately to the unfair judging that has always surrounded figure skating. The media, however, has turned this into North America vs Russia and that's so ridiculous.

The Russian skaters are very popular - many of them live and train here. It's just really sad that the Russian team can't enjoy their Olympic experience and I think it's insulting for the media to say that they are unhappy. They have been nothing but gracious under some unfortunate circumstances.

One pair falls. One pair doesn't. Can it be any simpler?
Carl Lukasewich, Canada

I think that opinion of the Russian public was ignored in the decision to give the Canadians gold. This sport should be excluded from the Olympics. I don't think that ISU had enough time to do proper investigation so this not a justice, this is a consolation.
Leonid, Canada

Why not have each athlete judged only by foreign judges
Tapati Sarasvati, USA

Bad calls will happen and we must all live with them. But, to have the viewers of the competition change the results opens a disastrous precedent. Imagine if we decide to replay the Superbowl or award the NBA title to a different team because of a bad call. Fire the referee, change the rules but do not let the audience overrule the results.
Mary Merritt, USA

I would like to see the system of judging be overhauled for all subjective performance based sports. I think the Olympics would become boring without skating, diving, and other subjective sports. Why not have each athlete judged only by foreign judges, with their own country's representative abstaining in each case. At least the most obvious bias would be ruled out.

It is clear that something must be done. I would hate to see these sports left out of the Olympics, but miscarriages of justice like this harm the sport, the Olympics, and the athletes involved.
Tapati Sarasvati, USA

Sorry to disagree with the majority of Americans who jingoistically regard Canada as part of North America, but I thought that the Russians were artistically better than the Canadians and despite their one error clearly were the better skaters.

To give in to media pressure is to say that Al Gore should have been given the Presidency with George Bush. There is only one winner and the Russians were overall better on the night. If we bow to media pressure let's do away with judges and all vote on-line for who we want to win!

Skating is not a sport, it is a beauty contest
Martin, Canada

I like that the integrity of the judges' scores were upheld. Once the disreputable judge was removed, with a 4:4 tie there was nothing left but to award Boo and Hoo gold medals. A terrible precedent - but fair!
Linda, USA

Skating is not a sport. It is a beauty contest. The original motto for the Olympics was (in Latin) something like "Faster, Higher, Further", and results of almost all events could be objectively measured.

It seems to me that until they return to that criterion, the Olympics will remain an embarrassment to all concerned, and we will continue to wonder who with any self-respect would want to compete in a skating or ice-dancing event.

On the other hand, look at all the TV viewers and commercial audiences the whole mess attracts; as long as the Games are run effectively by and for the media I don't think we can expect much improvement.
Martin, Canada

It is sad that a sporting event has witnessed such an intense political squabble. The gold should have been retained only with the Russians as they were the deserving winners and a decision for a second gold came only after intense media and political pressure.

The Russians or the non-English speaking people had little opportunity to express themselves
Aroop, UK

The routine performed by the Russians was technically more difficult than the one performed by the Canadians. However, the Canadians performed a routine which was more visually appealing and populist, but lower on technical difficulty.

All the support for the Canadians came from the English speaking media and the Russians or the non English speaking people had little opportunity to express themselves. Would we have had the same support for the Canadians, if the other party was from US or another developed English speaking country?
Aroop, UK

The Canadian couple should now enjoy the honour of hearing their national anthem and seeing the Maple Leaf raised.

While we're on the subject of justice and fairness, and without meaning to be flippant, I would like to suggest that there is still the matter of the last US Presidential election. If only something could be done to give Al Gore the presidency he rightfully won. Oh well, there's always 2004. . . .
Angela Jackson, Hong Kong

On the theory that an event which relies on judges is not really a sport, how about cricket's lbw law, or a rugby or football referee's interpretation of the rules. Furthermore, in these sports one individual judge can have more sway than in ice-skating where it's one of nine.

To award the Canadian pair a shared gold was not justified in any way
David Taylor, England

And we've become sadly aware that faster, higher, stronger can mean little more than successful evasion of banned substance detection. I think that ice skating is fine in concept - it's just got too corrupt. Sport and politics have to be separate - there needs to be a panel of proven, trustworthy judges who can be rotated, if the sport wants to continue.
Steve, USA

To award the Canadian pair a shared gold was not justified in any way. The judges made the correct decision even when faced with a highly partisan crowd. The French judge's decision is now being questioned, but there are no clear reasons for her to be singled out for scrutiny!

The IOC is simply bowing to mob rule. After watching the highlights several times we all agreed that the Russian pair deceived to win. Yes, they did have two technical errors, but their presentation was far more elegant and intricate than the Canadian pair.
David Taylor, England

As skillful as the event is, it holds more entertainment than competition. It has a place in the world, like a beauty contest or a circus does. But an Olympic sport should have a more competitive value.
Bismah Arshad, Canada

I would remove all sports where subjective judging, as opposed to timing or measuring, determines winners. As for awarding retrospective gold medals perhaps we could have a few more gross misjudgements recognised.

Figure-skating is not about mindless execution of jumps and turns
Emily Dickenson, USA

Olga Korbut's uneven bars routine at Munich 1972, for example, where the audience kept up an hour-long footstamping exercise in disapproval that ran on right through the medal presentations. And how about Torvill and Dean who were leading going into the last round at Lillehammer 1994. Their final routine had received 11 'perfect 6.0s' at other events that same year but received as low as 5.6 at the Games.
Chris Wheatley, New Zealand

This is stupid. Every sport has a subjective side to it. Any sport with a referee or umpire has a person making subjective calls about plays that affect the outcome of the game. Skating is no different.
Irwin, USA

Do you really want to give an Olympic medal to a couple dressed in industrial-strength grey skating to a 20 year old mediocre pop song?! Figure-skating is not about mindless execution of jumps and turns.

The Canadians lacked imagination, style and verve. Something that the Russian have in abundance.

More importantly, the Canadians acted like spoiled North American brats that did not get to have it their way. They have derailed The Games and displayed most unsportsmenship-like spirit.
Emily Dickenson, USA

This is by far the worst decision ever made in the history of sport. To change the judges decision after the event goes to show how far things have gone in society. This really sets a massive precedent for the future. Why bother with judges at all?
Patrick Gibbons, Glasgow, Scotland

Ice skating is like gymnastics on ice - if you ban ice skating then you should also ban this other truly Olympic sport
Kath, UK

The outcome was the only reasonable solution. However, as one of the signs carried in Salt Lake City by one of the crowd said, and also correctly in my judgment, "Drug test the athletes; polygraph the judges."
Paul Wisgerhof, Spain

If you ban 'sports' like ice skating on the premise it is subjective, then you must ban sports like diving and gymnastics, as there is no objective way to measure the winner of these sports either.
Craig Miller, UK

I love ice dancing. To be honest, it is one of the few sports that I truly enjoy watching. Ice skating is like gymnastics on ice - if you ban ice skating then you should also ban this other truly Olympic sport.
Kath, UK

The only events that should be allowed in the Olympics are those where the results can be determined by a clock or a tape measure.
J Bongard, Canada

Figure skating should not be an Olympic sport. Nor should any 'sport' which relies on the marks of judges. All sports should be assessed on a measurable quantity, such as shortest time/fastest speed, greatest distance, most number of goals/points.

Any 'sport' that allows judges to award marks based on their own interpretation of style or artistic impression isn't a sport at all
Peter, UK

The judges should only ensure the correct application of the rules, not rank the performances of the competitors. Anything which relies on subjective marking is not sport, it is performance art.
Adrian Bourne, UK

Any 'sport' that allows judges to award marks based on their own interpretation of style or artistic impression isn't a sport at all. The Olympic motto is 'swifter, higher, stronger' which means the person who runs fastest or jumps highest and throws furthest wins and these things are all measurable, unlike 'artistic impression' which is subjective and 'in the eye of the beholder'.
Peter, UK

Surely any sport which is decided by judges is always going to be edgy. Ninety per cent are most likely very good, and fair, but the other 10 aren't. How much of a part does politics play?
Paul Cullen, England

Anything that has style marks is not a sport and thus should not be in the Olympics.
Bob, England

The easy answer to the question is yes. The difficulty has always been the judging. What happened in Salt Lake City is hardly a startling revelation. Until there is an independent neutral judging system or another way of marking, then I am afraid this will always happen.
Norman, Scotland

BBC Sport Online's dedicated website for the Winter OlympicsWinter Games
Salt Lake City plays host to Olympic action
See also:

15 Feb 02 |  Skating
Canadian skaters get gold
15 Feb 02 |  Skating
Canadians delighted by gold
15 Feb 02 |  Skating
Cousins: The right outcome
15 Feb 02 |  Skating
Shared gold is best solution
16 Feb 02 |  Skating
Salt Lake fated by 'Skategate'
12 Feb 02 |  Skating
Russian pair spark medal row
11 Feb 02 |  Skating
Ups and downs of Russia's pair
13 Feb 02 |  Skating
Figure skating in the dock
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