Tracking ISU and U.S. Figure Skating Events, Issues and Governance
A Blazing Blades Editorial
Current problems within the Judging system don’t just involve the results that all too often are questioned by both the general audience and those involved full time in the sport. Perception plays an equally important part in what is wrong.
Quoting Dick Button, “How are judges, who have been caught cheating, allowed to judge again, while Tonya Harding is banned for life?”
Why are National Governing Bodies (NGB’s) allowed to keep Judges who have been caught and sanctioned for cheating, continually involved in the sport? Why are NGB’s allowed to assign a spouse of any officer or official within that body, as a judge at any skating event? Why does the International Skating Union (ISU) condone the outright flouting of the perception of cronyism, unfairness and the likelihood of cheating? Why does the ISU condone the additional use of anonymous judging, under the guise of keeping judges free of home nation pressure to mark more favorably for their own country’s athletes, when it actually serves as a cover for the fudging of marks? Wow!
Add to the above the heavy-handed approach the ISU uses to keep those who disagree with such practices, silent; by threatening sanctions against any skater, coach, official or member NGB who dares challenge the international body. We’ve seen this tactic used numerous times over the past 20 years, much of that time with Speed Skater Ottavio Cinquanta as ISU President.
We can retool the IJS all we like, but as long as the aforementioned negative perceptions remain it will still be abused.
Another issue is the selection of the judges and officials and their lack of independence from their national governing bodies; particularly for scoring at international events. Until an independent national and international organization takes full reigns of this process, all the retooling done to the IJS will not bring the right fix.
Until a majority of ISU member NGB’s can agree to end secret judging these over-riding perceptions will remain and continue to trump whatever mathematical fixes are attempted.
Why has secret judging been kept in place? Here, one has to look at the organization of the ISU. Not only is it composed of some 80 plus national skating entities, a majority of those skating federations and associations are composed of two branches… Speed Skating and Figure Skating… both ice sports. Herein lays the problem. These are two completely different sports, executed in completely different formats under their own unique rules and regulations. Their mission and objectives are as different as night and day. Yet under the current ISU structure they all vote together on all issues before each sport. By allowing all NBG representatives to vote together on an issue relating to figure skating, this allows the current leadership, who favor attention to Speed Skating, to maintain control over the sport of figure skating (which they have little interest in or knowledge of) with policies that are destroying the soul of figure skating.
This coming June U.S. Figure Skating representatives at the 2014 ISU Congress plan to introduce a formal proposal to bring an end to anonymous (secret) judging. They will attempt to have their proposal on the Congress agenda for a vote. Does President Cinquanta want this proposal to be voted on? Hell no! Will he work behind the scenes with his Speed Skating buddies to either block it from the agenda or get it voted down if necessary? You bet he will. Losing a vote to end secret judging will greatly diminish his control over and ability to collude with many NGB’s who want to continue their influence on what marks can be fudged for skaters they wish to promote. He has and will continue to deny such shenanigans, what cheater wouldn’t. What honest leader/s would allow such practices and perceptions to remain in place during their governance? Not one!
My conclusion is based on what I have witnessed over the many (too many) years of President Cinquanta’s governance. He is not honest. He is corrupt, manipulative, and uses backroom dealing with the use of threats and sanctions and banning of those who try to bring wrong-doing to light. He retains his corruptive manner because there are too many both afraid to challenge him and his corruptive buddies and who would love use their own manner of leadership in the future.
My final sense is if secret judging remains in place after this Congress we likely will see another 20 years of the same sport-killing policies continue along with it. If the leaders of the sport refuse to deal with the troubles that face figure skating they will see a further decline in support from those of us who love what the sport has brought to our lives; a unique sport among sports, one that combines athleticism, music, art and dance into one glorious union.
Conclusion: Let’s see one of two things.
1. Along with the end of secret judging, eventual reorganization within the ISU. Make the ISU Presidency into the organization’s CEO… who is not involved in the management of either the Speed Skating or Figure Skating entities of the whole. Separate Speed Skating and Figure Skating into two separate sections of the ISU, each electing its own President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. End join funding which allows for either sport to manipulate the monies or policies of the other. Both Presidents would report to the ISU CEO on matters relating to international interest for their respective sports. (This is the preferable change).
If not 1 above then undertake the more radical approach.
2. U.S. Figure Skating, in conjunction with U.S. media (NBC when next ISU contract renewal comes up), serve notice it will sever ties to the ISU taking it’s huge portion of the ISU budget and as many other NGB’s that might follow suit and form a new international figure skating entity; and effectively cripple those unwilling to bring positive change to the sport internationally. (This should not have to happen if those who purport to have Figure Skating’s best interest at heart decide to work for positive change; not continue secrecy and backroom dealing).
Peter Murray, Editor