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ISU chief says he'll present overhaul plan

Sale, Pelletier will get gold medals Sunday

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Sunday, February 17, 2002
Le Gougne wants to address ISU

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- Suspended French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne wants to tell her side of the story to the International Skating Union, and may get the chance before the council meets Monday in closed session.

French skating leader Didier Gailhaguet said that Le Gougne decided, after a few days of deliberation, that she wanted to be heard by the ISU about the pressure she said she felt to vote for the Russians in pairs skating.

Le Gougne provided the swing vote in a 5-4 decision that gave the gold to the Russian couple over the Canadians, though the ISU and International Olympic Committee later chose to give the Canadians a gold, as well.

"We are awaiting the reaction of the ISU," said Gailhaguet, who is on the 11-member council.

Also, beleaguered skating officials will mull radical changes in a judging system that deteriorated into a cheating scandal at the Winter Olympics after decades of whispered deals.

ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta has promised to present a thorough overhaul of the judging system. The most significant of those reforms would be cutting the ties between judges and their national federations.

"Judges need to be under the ISU banner, not the national federation banner," said Sally Stapleford, a former British champion and chairperson of the figure skating technical committee. "It would helpful if the ISU did the appointments to the international level, not members. The ISU should try to break the tie between member federations and judges."

That idea was proposed two years ago at the full ISU Congress in Quebec City, but failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass.

Cinquanta said he has prepared his own plan to bring more discipline and accountability to judging, but he declined to elaborate on details.

"The idea is to change judging, to make it safer, better and improve the system," ISU spokesperson Aline Bussat said.

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."