Olympic figure skating scandals now an expectation

A screen grab shows Nancy Kerrigan shortly after she was attacked in 1994.

A screen grab shows Nancy Kerrigan shortly after she was attacked in 1994.

QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Figure skating wouldn’t be figure skating without scandal.

And as our Steve Buffery reported early Saturday, there's one brewing in Sochi as we speak.

It’s almost expected now from casual fans who tune in every four years to one of the marquee Olympic events.

Is that fair?

Well, based on the sport’s track record -- and the examples below -- who could blame fans for growing cynical?

HARDING-KERRIGAN

This is the mother of all scandals: In the run-up to the 1994 Lillehammer Games, American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked at the U.S. championships in Detroit, whacked in the knee by a baton-wielding assailant. After weeks of investigation, bodybuilder Shane Stant was arrested along with three other men – including Jeff Gillooly, whose wife was Kerrigan rival Tonya Harding. Amid a police probe, the pair competed under an intense spotlight at the Games, with Kerrigan winning an impressive silver and Harding finishing eighth. Poor Tonya was later charged with helping the attackers hide their crime – she’s always claimed she knew nothing beforehand – and was banned for life from U.S. figure skating events.

SALE-PELLETIER

The Salt Lake saga of Canadian lovebirds Jame Sale and David Pelletier drew international ire before its golden conclusion. The pair, skating at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, claimed a disappointing silver behind their Russian rivals – until French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she’d shortchanged the Canadians’ score as part of a pact with the Russians to give them that gold, if France could get high scores in ice dancing. In the end, Sale and Pelletier were awarded the gold, which they shared with Russia’s Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.

AMERICAN INTERFERENCE

American figure skater Mirai Nagasu has handled it with class, but the sport’s critics pounced when she won bronze at the recent U.S. championships – only to be pushed off the Sochi team by American skating officials who felt the track record of Ashley Wagner made her a better fit for the Games, even if she failed to qualify. As Nagasu, 20, wrote in a statement: “I’m disappointed in the decision. Though I may not agree with it, I have to respect the decision the federation made.”

LOBBY EFFORT?

U.S. judge Joe Inman took criticism before the Vancouver Games for an e-mail he sent to dozens of fellow judges and skating officials in which he criticized the “transitions” (which connect the more spectacular parts of a performance) of Russian star Evgeni Plushenko, warning his colleagues they must judge more carefully. Plushenko himself had told a reporter he didn’t have “any transitions” in one competition. Despite that, Inman’s email drew a conspiratorial response from one French skating official: “It just proves the North American lobby is on its way.”

BAD CONNECTION

At the 1998 Nagano Games, suspicious Canadian judge Jean Senft recorded a phone conversation with Yuri Balkov, a Ukrainian judge who asked Senft to vote for Ukrainian skaters in exchange for Balkov backing Canada’s ice-dance darlings Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. She handed the evidence to the International Skating Union, which suspended Balkov – for only a year.


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