Saturday, February 16, 2002
French say judge should not be scapegoat
PARIS -- French sports officials, newspapers and an Olympic
silver medalist said Saturday that it was unfair to blame one
French judge for the corruption that pervades figure skating.
"All the titles are decided ahead of time," retired French
skater Isabelle Duchesnay told the Le Parisien newspaper. "The
corruption is so institutionalized that it had to break out some
In 1992, Duchesnay won silver in the ice dance with her brother,
Paul, in Albertville, France.
"At Albertville, some officials came to see us before the start
of the free program," Duchesnay said. "They said: 'We're sorry, but
you'll only get the silver medal.' When you're in this environment,
you think it's normal."
Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet said the suspension of judge
Marie-Reine Le Gougne, accused of misconduct by skating's governing
body, highlighted a need to review the entire sport.
The International Skating Union needs to "reflect" on possible
changes to avoid a repeat of the scandal that has dominated the
Salt Lake City Games, Buffet told Europe 1 radio.
Le Gougne was suspended indefinitely after admitting she was
pressured to favor Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton
Sikharulidze, who won gold in pairs figure skating. Canadians Jamie
Sale and David Pelletier initially were given the silver.
The IOC decided Friday that the pair would share the gold medal
with their Russian rivals.
"It's a good decision," said the president of the French
National Olympic Committee, Henri Serandour.
"I am delighted for the Canadians and in the name of sporting
morality," Serandour said in Saturday's edition of French sports
daily L'Equipe. "As for Madame Le Gougne, I said from the start of
this affair that if there was malpractice, there should be
Serandour said he hoped the affair would "serve as an example
because, for a very long time, we have known the recurring sickness
that has sapped skating. Let's hope action to remedy it will
L'Equipe said the judge was being treated as a scapegoat.
"It is hypocritical of the international federation to use the
French judge as a scapegoat to disguise the corruption of a system
of which (ISU President Ottavio) Cinquanta is perfectly aware,"
the paper said.
Duchesnay, who runs a skating school and judges professional
competitions, said judges are swayed by offers of free trips by
national skating federations.
"It's not a coincidence that now it's the Russians and
Americans who dominate skating," Duchesnay said. "These two
federations are the richest and have the means to finance the
Speaking on French television Saturday night, French skating
federation president Didier Gailhaguet repeated that the
organization had not exerted pressure on any judges.
"We have never tried to influence the rankings," he told
Gailhaguet acknowledged that within the sport there are
"attempts to influence" judges. "It's nothing new," he said,
but he denied that French skating officials were ever implicated.