Changes in scoring proposed for skating


SALT LAKE CITY -The judging methods that produced the tawdry scandal that scarred last week's Olympic figure skating pairs competition could soon be replaced by a process aimed at tackling the corruption if not the complexity of the system.

The alterations were proposed yesterday at a crowded afternoon news conference by Ottavio Cinquanta, the beleaguered president of the International Skating Union who indicated that his radical plan could not be acted upon until July at the earliest.

The nearly century-old method of subjectively deducting from a maximum score of 6.0 points will be scrapped, pending approval by the ISU and International Olympic Committee. The ISU's next convention will be in July in Japan.

Most notably, under the new plan, the number of judges will be increased from nine to 14. A computer program will randomly select the votes of only seven, totaling all the points into a single tally, Cinquanta said, that will be impossible to parse.

Pre-determined points will be awarded for each successfully completed skating element, perhaps two for a double axel, three for a triple, etc. A skater's grade may then be enhanced, depending on how well the moves were executed and how artistically they were performed.

The ISU chief was unable to provide many details, saying that would be the work of his organization's technical committee. That led to speculation that the announcement's timing was meant to counter a week's worth of negative worldwide publicity.

"This is a total revolution in the history of the ISU," Cinquanta said. "When it is implemented, it will be one of the best days in the history of our sport."

If implemented, the new system should put a stop to bloc voting, the practice by which judges from various nations join together to, in effect, exchange votes.

Judges will not know, before or after competitions, if their votes were among those counted. More importantly, Cinquanta said, their national federations will not know, either.

"They can no longer see how an individual they have appointed votes," he said.

National federations, he said, likely will continue to appoint their judging representatives for international events since, in his words, "everybody is from somewhere."

It was pressure by a national federation on one of its judges that caused the integrity of last week's pairs competition to be questioned.

On the morning after Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the gold in that event, French judge Marie Reine Le Gougne told an American referee that she had been urged strongly by the head of her nation's skating federation to vote for the Russians.

After days of international outcry, Le Gougne was suspended and a second gold medal awarded to the runner-up Canadian pair, David Pelletier and Jamie Sale.

Yesterday, Le Gougne reportedly told a French newspaper that her initial statement had been made under duress. But Cinquanta denied that.

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