Skating federation to investigate judgingPosted: Tuesday February 12, 2002 6:04 PM
Updated: Tuesday February 12, 2002 7:49 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (CNN) -- The International Skating Union announced Tuesday that it will conduct an "internal assessment" into a controversial judging decision at the finals of the Olympic pairs figure skating competition Monday night, where the coveted gold medal went to a Russian pair who stumbled, rather than to a Canadian couple who didn't.
In a statement issued after a routine review of Monday's judging, the ISU, the sports federation governing figure skating, said it will try to determine whether "the ISU rules and procedures have been respected."
Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, the reigning world champions, skated what the crowd in the Salt Lake Ice Center judged as a nearly flawless performance in their long program Monday night.
But five of the nine judges put them behind the Russian couple of Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze who took the gold.
"We have no control over this. It's not the [Russian] skaters fault, either. We do our job, and the judges do their job, and they are human, too," said Sale. "We're not sure what happened, but we're just really happy with what we did." Judges from Russia, China, Poland, Ukraine and France placed the Russians first; judges from the United States, Canada, Germany and Japan gave the nod to Sale and Pelletier.
The results raised anew a long-running controversy over block voting, in which judges have been accused of voting together to favor skaters from their regions, broken down along Cold War lines.
Four of the judges who voted for the Russians are from former Soviet or communist countries; the four who voted for the Canadians are from countries in the Western bloc. The French judge was the exception, going with the Russians -- somewhat ironic, considering that Pelletier is French-Canadian.
After the decision, he told the Canadian media that he was considering hanging up his skates.
"After a night like tonight, you badly want to cut your figure skating career short," he told the Toronto Globe and Mail.
In the 1998 Nagano Games, a Canadian judge publicly raised charges of block voting in the ice dance competition, which led the ISU to issue new procedures to review controversial decisions.