Sunday, February 17, 2002
Updated: February 18, 8:33 AM ET
Cinquanta will present plan at Monday meeting
ESPN.com news services
SALT LAKE CITY -- World skating chief Ottavio Cinquanta told Reuters he would personally put forward a radical plan to overhaul the judging system in figure skating after the scandal of the Olympic pairs event.
Cinquanta, the International Skating Union (ISU) president, said his plan would be put to Monday's ISU council meeting, called to review last Monday's hugely controversial pairs competition in which the judging set off an international uproar dominating the first week of the Games.
"I will present a new project that I have personally created for figure skating judging," he told Reuters in an interview. "My project is to totally innovate the change in the system of judging, not to evaluate the judge."
Russian pair Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze originally won gold in a 5-4 decision by the nine judges but the French judge was later suspended and a second gold medal was to be awarded later on Sunday to the Canadian duo of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.
Cinquanta said Monday's council meeting would also deal with the case of the suspended judge, France's Marie-Reine Le Gougne, and seek to determine who, if anyone, put pressure on her before Monday's competition.
He confirmed that Le Gougne had claimed she had pressure put on her by the French figure skating president Didier Gailhaguet, who is also the French team chief at the Games.
But he added that Le Gougne had not said that the pressure had actually influenced her to vote for the Russian pair.
Asked how he felt when the news of the scandal broke, Cinquanta said: "I was really very disappointed because this put some grave suspicion on the merit of the competition. I was furious."
He said the ISU decision to suspend her was based merely on her failure to inform event referee Ron Pfenning of the United States of the pressure allegedly exerted on her before the start of the event and not for any other reason.
"All the other stories in the newspapers, at the moment, are fantasy," he said.
"What the ISU wants to do is to go on with the investigation to see if there are other people responsible."
Cinquanta said Gailhaguet had attended a meeting of the ISU council on Thursday at which the decision was made to suspend Le Gougne and to award a second gold to the Canadians.
But he said Gailhaguet left the meeting when the matter was discussed. The Frenchman, a member of the council, had also been invited to Monday's meeting though Le Gougne would not be present.
Cinquanta denied that he had received letters claiming to substantiate rumors that the Russian skating federation was involved in a deal which would see Le Gougne vote for the Russians in the pairs in return for a Russian judge favoring the French duo of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in the ice dance.
He said Monday's investigation would involve a review of documents, hearing testimony and conducting interviews.
"My role is to protect the ISU, but not to hide anything," he said. "I have to protect the procedure of the investigation. What I have to disclose are facts with evidence and consequent decisions.
"This is a very delicate investigation that involves the ISU and the International Olympic Committee... You cannot joke with this."
None of the changes was likely to be implemented at these Olympics. Unless Cinquanta calls for an emergency action or special votes, any reform plan would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of all member federations at the next ISU Congress in Kyoto, Japan, in June.
"I might assume if anything more comes out, we'll have to have special meetings," said Claire Ferguson, an American member of the council.
Among various proposals that have been made, and rejected over the years, are an increase in the number of judges from nine for an event to 15 or 20. One idea would be to count only nine of their scores, selecting them randomly, while throwing out the highest and lowest scores. That proposal was rejected two years ago as being too expensive.
Other proposals have called for judges to be named only a short time before competition, rather than months in advance, as was the case with the pairs Olympic judges. Short notice might reduce the chances of trading votes or making other deals.
But nothing, Ferguson said, will guarantee that judges won't ever be compromised, or that their decisions won't be hotly questioned by skaters and fans.
"I don't think you can ever be assured of anything not happening," Ferguson said. "People are human beings. All of these suggestions that are being made, believe me, in the eight years I've been involved, have been debated. We go to our meeting on Monday and try to solve the problems that have to be solved."
Reuters News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.