Skate fan campaigns for fairness in system

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Elizabeth Taylor believes it\'s time somebody spoke out against the ills that plague figure skating.

That\'s why she\'s among a group headed to Washington, D.C., this week to take part in what is being billed as the first fan protest ever at a world figure skating championships.

Together, they will gather Friday afternoon in front of the MCI Center, carrying placards with slogans like \'No Secret Judging\' and \'International Secrecy Union.\'

\"We are all feeling disturbed and concerned for the future of the sport, and this is our way of showing it,\" said Taylor, a skating enthusiast from Ottawa who has been attending world championships regularly since 1998.

Except for one year. That was 2000, the year Taylor believes the International Skating Union unfairly took the worlds host role away from Brisbane, Australia, and gave it to Nice, France. Taylor had paid a deposit to go to Brisbane, which she fortunately recovered. She refused to use it to book the trip to Nice.

SILENT PROTEST

\"In my own small way, I felt like I was protesting,\" she said. \"Though I don\'t think the ISU actually noticed that one fan from Canada didn\'t go.\"

She expects to be noticed this time. Anywhere from 50 to 200 fans -- all part of a group that calls itself SkateFAIR (Skate Fans for Accountability and ISU Reform) -- are expected at Friday\'s protest before the ice dance final.

ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta has been invited to speak to the group, though they doubt he will.

The protest group is remarkably organized, and in an amazingly short period of time. SkateFAIR was the product of a discussion among skating fans in an Internet chat group in January. After dismissing the idea of booing Cinquanta at worlds, a protest group was formed in less than three weeks.

Taylor was among the first to join. Margaret Burwell, a database operator from Ottawa, is part of its policy committee.

\"Many of us have never met each other, a lot we only know by their (chatroom) nicknames,\" said Taylor.

\"But we agreed quite quickly we should do something and we can do something. It\'s a real spontaneous, grassroots effort.\"

TOO MUCH SECRECY

SkateFAIR\'s main concerns surround the secrecy of a new interim judging system that the ISU instituted in the wake of the Salt Lake Olympic scandal involving Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

The group wants a more open, accountable system, with a code of ethics that includes punishments up to and including lifetime bans for cheaters. It also feels the ISU needs to work much more diligently to weed out corruption in the judging system.

\"If nothing else, we\'ve raised awareness (of these issues),\" said Taylor. \"Maybe we can put a window on what is really going on.\"

They can also \"speak for those who can\'t,\" she said -- people within the sport who won\'t speak out for fear of ISU retribution.

\"We need to support the people who really count -- the skaters, the coaches and honest judges,\" said Taylor.

\"They need to be able to feel comfortable that the sport they all love is not going to be destroyed.\"

More information on the group is available at www.skatefair.com.


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