At the 1999 world championships in Helsinki two judges, a Ukrainian and a Russian, were suspended after they were caught by television cameras communicating by surreptitious glances and foot signals before they entered their marks into the computer. As recently as December longtime IOC member Richard Pound of Canada, mindful that the ISU had done nothing to meaningfully change the way judges were selected in the wake of these scandals, called for ice dancing to be removed as an Olympic sport. Last week Pound weighed in again, calling the judging system "completely irredeemable and corrupt" and describing the ISU as "a separate little fiefdom that has now been exposed."
As details of Le Gougne's confession began to leak, speculation about vote-swapping followed. The French, it was theorized, must have agreed to exchange their vote in pairs for the Russian vote in ice dancing, in which the French team of Gwendal Peizerat and Marina Anissina was one of the favorites. The Russian judge on the dance panel was Alla Shekjovtseva, who's married to the president of the Russian Skating Federation, Valentin Piseev. Gailhaguet and Piseev have the power to select which judges go to the Olympics from their respective countries. Shekjovtseva had placed the French dancers third in the compulsory dance she had judged at the most recent European championships; if she placed them third at the Olympics, who knew which members of the panel-including judges from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine—might follow her lead? France didn't have a judge on the Olympic dance panel.
The Canadian Olympic Association (COA) suddenly had two teams to look out for. Of course there was Pelletier-Sal�, who overnight had become the most sympathetic and recognizable duo in skating, and then there was Kraatz-Bourne, the dance tandem whose placement in Salt Lake City may have already been determined. Michael Chambers, president of the COA, sent a letter to Cinquanta demanding an immediate independent investigation. Cinquanta, who's from Italy, saw no need to hurry. During an acrimonious press conference on Wednesday morning, Feb. 13, he poured gasoline on the fire with a slew of evasive and contradictory answers. Eventually he said he was embarrassed by the incident, but he added, "I do not think it was a scandal"—a stunning admission from a man who was supposedly conducting an investigation. Cinquanta further insisted that he saw no reason to convene the ISU council earlier than the following Monday to address the matter. That was five days away, the day of the dance final.
New IOC president Jacques Rogge, a Belgian, felt otherwise, and on Wednesday afternoon he told Cinquanta to resolve the dispute as expeditiously as possible. That night Gailhaguet acknowledged in a phone interview with a French reporter from the Associated Press that "some people close to the judge have acted badly and put someone who is honest and upright, but emotionally fragile, under pressure."
On Valentine's Day, after the AP story came out, all hell broke loose. Gailhaguet spent much of the day denying the quotes attributed to him, claiming he'd been misunderstood and misled. An AP spokesperson responded that there'd been no misunderstanding, that the conversation had taken place entirely in French and then had been meticulously translated. At a 9 p.m. press conference Gailhaguet said that no one in the French federation had acted improperly and that "contrary to the accusations, there was no collusion with the East European nations."
"There can be human error," Gailhaguet added, "but not five humans and five errors. We must accept the result for democracy and the credibility of our sport."
Meanwhile, Rogge and Cinquanta engaged in an animated conversation while sitting together at the men's figure skating final that night. Earlier on Thursday an IOC official had assured a member of the COA that the controversy would be resolved by the next day. "It's our Games, too," IOC director general Fran�ois Carrard said, his frustration over the way the controversy was overshadowing other events etched in his voice.
Sure enough, shortly after Russian figure skater Alexei Yagudin was awarded his figure skating gold medal, Cinquanta convened a meeting of the ISU council. With all 11 members in attendance, the council voted to suspend Le Gougne indefinitely for failing to immediately report to the referee that she'd been pressured to vote a certain way. Then, in an extraordinary move that was counter to its procedures, the group recommended to the IOC executive board that a gold medal be awarded to the Canadian pair. The IOC board adopted the recommendation: seven votes in favor, one against ( China) and one abstention ( Russia).
Last Friday morning a chastened Cinquanta and a stern-faced Rogge delivered this news at another standing-room-only press conference. Three times in previous Olympics a second medal had been awarded, but this was the first instance for a judging impropriety. Asked if any penalties would be assessed beyond the suspension of Le Gougne, Cinquanta gave assurances that the investigation into allegations of vote-swapping would continue. "This is step 1," said Carrard, who implied that the IOC would be monitoring the steps that followed as well. "The ISU will first complete its own investigation, and we will receive the report in due time."
"For a very long time we have known about the recurring sickness that has sapped skating," said Henri S�randour, head of the French National Olympic Committee. "Let's hope action to remedy it will follow."