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The IOC has called for a “reality check” after questions were raised over the integrity of the judges in Thursday night's ladies figure skating.
Russian Adeline Sotnikova took gold despite a slight stumble in her routine. Hers was followed by a flawless performance by Korean favourite Yuna Kim.
It was revealed that one of the nine judges who added to Sotnikova's technical scores had been suspended for a year after trying to fix an event at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
And another is the wife of the former president and current general director of the Russian figure skating federation.
“Not one person in skating I've talked to said that's the way (the result) should have gone,” former US Olympic figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger told USA Today.
The judging pool for the free skating program was slightly different to the one that had awarded Kim top points in the short program the night before.
One addition was Ukranian Yuri Balkov.
In her book The Second Mark: Courage, Corruption and the Battle for Olympic Gold, author Joy Goodwin wrote that hours before the finals of the 1998 Olympic ice dancing competition in Nagano, Canadian judge Jean Senft tape-recorded a phone call made to her hotel room by Balkov.
On the tape, Balkov reportedly said “My opinion: three Canada, four [Russian] Averbukh, five France. You understand me?”
At an International Skating Union meeting the next year in Geneva, an appeals commission suspended both Senft and Balkov for misconduct. Balkov next judged the Olympic ice dance event in 2002.
The nine-person judging panel for the women's free skate on Thursday night did not include a Korean or American judge – but had four from Eastern Europe: Estonia, Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia.
Russian judge Alla Shekhovtseva has served as a judge at most world championships and Olympic Games for more than a decade, even though her husband was Russian skating federation chief Valentin Piseev.
Within Russia she is considered one of the most knowledgeable and respected judges on the circuit, praised for her judgement and insight.
The ISU does not consider her relationship a conflict of interest.
On Friday morning IOC spokesman Mark Adams, asked about allegations of bias and deals in the judging – which also plagued the team event last week which was won by Russia, and the ice dancing won by Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White – said “I think we need a little bit of a reality check here”.
He said it was widely agreed that Sotnikova's performance had been “absolutely fantastic”, and that had been acknowledged by Kim as well.
“My own view would be to congratulate (Sotnikova),” he said.
There had been no complaint by any athlete or team to his knowledge, he said. If there were, it would be reviewed by the sport's top body in the normal way.
“But this is all hypothetical,” he said.
Figure skating judging rules were revamped after a scandal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, where it was alleged that Russian winners Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze had benefited from a fix.
They won gold despite making a technical error, ahead of Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier who skated a flawless program.
A French judge reportedly confessed she had been pressured to favour the Russian pair, though she later denied it had affected their score.
The Canadians' silver medal was later upgraded to gold, though the Russians also kept theirs.
According to the breakdown of Thursday's official scores, in which judges names are anonymised, Kim was judged to have bettered Sotnikova in 'unfactored program components' such as skating skills, performance, choreography and interpretation.
However Sotnikova scored higher because of her technical elements – the leaps and spins that are scored on difficulty as well as execution.
Sotnikova attempted a harder routine than Kim, and despite a couple of errors was judged to have delivered the other elements with more skill.
One judge in particular – whose name is not identified – gave Sotnikova top marks for every element but two. Yuna Kim's scores were more mixed, and there was no judge that scored her remarkably highly on the technical elements.
Almost 1.5 million people have signed an online petition calling for the ISU to open an investigation into the judging on the competition, and to re-judge the result.
The petition, started by someone who signed themselves 'justice seeker, Sochi', claims that "the corruption needs to be made visible and needs to be corrected."
"This is not for Yuna Kim, this is for the fair sportsmanship that is supposed to be central to the ... Olympics."
The story Sochi Winter Olympics: IOC plays down figure skating gold medal controversy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.