Judge Involved In Sochi Skating Controversy Was Once Banned For Trying To Fix The 1998 Olympics

Sotnikova cryingMatthew Stockman/Getty ImagesAdelina Sotnikova after her fantastic routine.

Adelina Sotnikova won the women’s figure skating gold medal fair and square.

While her upset of South Korea’s Yuna Kim was surprising, the numbers say it was justified.

But the way the International Skating Union conducts its business gives lifeblood to judging controversies, and last night was no exception.

By putting shady characters on the judging panel, leaving their scores anonymous, and refusing to explain how the judges arrived at their respective scores, the ISU constructed the framework of a conspiracy theory before anyone even stepped on the ice.

One of the judges in the free skate was Ukraine’s Yuri Balkov. In 1998, Balkov was caught on tape hours before the ice dancing competition telling a Canadian judge which order the teams should be in.

The Canadian judge turned Balkov into the ISU, and he was banned … for a year. Remarkably, he was back on the ice dancing panel in Salt Lake City in 2002, and last night he was picked to judge the women’s free skate.

Another judge in Thursday’s free skate was Alla Shekhovtseva of Russia, who is married to the general director of the Russian figure skating federation, according to Christine Brennan of USA Today.

That’s two judges who, if the ISU was smart, should have never been on the panel. Even if they’re the best figure skating judges in the world, their mere presence invites corruption charges.

It was, as they say, a bad look.

When you dig into the official judge-by-judge results, you find that the scores were fairly consistent across the board. There was one judge who gave Kim component scores in the 8.5 range, compared to the 9.0 range for the rest of the judges, but there aren’t any glaring discrepancies.

Still, these judges are protected by anonymity, and we’ll never know how Balkov and Shekhovtseva scored each skater.

After the event, Ashley Wagner of the U.S. said that judging anonymity in figure skating needs to end.

The point here isn’t that got Sotnikova shouldn’t have won, or that the event was rigged.

As we wrote yesterday, her routine was harder than Kim’s and she didn’t commit any major errors. By all accounts, it was the type of highly technical routine that’s designed to rack up points in the new scoring system.

The issue is that the ISU is subverting its own integrity.

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