Le Gougne admits she was pressured to vote in favour of Canadians but believed Russians had better skate (translation via Google).
February 18, 2002 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Here's the original link via L'Equipe, a French sports magazine.

Translation of her quote for those that don't feel clicking on the link:

" Mrs. Sally-Ann Stapleford, president of the commission for technical artistry, (...) which has the Anglo-Canadian dual nationality, attacked me, while reproaching me for having voted for the Russians (...) It is she who suggested that I had undergone pressures from French Federation and his president, Didier Gailhaguet to vote for the Russians. Feeling threatened morally and physically, I did not contradict his remarks at the moment in time"

Maybe Russia did win fair in square.
posted by Why at 9:06 AM on February 18, 2002

The French original, for those of us who can read it. (Note that this online page is an extract from a full interview published in today's edition. They want you to buy a copy, naturally.)
posted by mcwetboy at 9:08 AM on February 18, 2002

Remember litlnemo's post? It could have gone either way; turns out all this collusion talk was sparked by those who were being alledgedly colluded against!
posted by Why at 9:10 AM on February 18, 2002

It wasn't just the French and Russian judges that placed the Russian duo first. There were four or five total if I'm not mistaken.
posted by howa2396 at 9:13 AM on February 18, 2002

Although I must confess to the heinous crime of not giving even a fractional hoot about competitive skating, I do think this translation sums up how I have felt at most of the worst moments of my life: "...I smell myself so dirtied..."
posted by umberto at 9:13 AM on February 18, 2002

I also like the inadvertent translation of the Canadian couple's names - Sale/Pelletier becomes Dirty/Furrier.
posted by starvingartist at 9:16 AM on February 18, 2002

The appearance of taint and the admission that she had been pressured casts undermines her claim that she would have voted for the Russians anyway. It may well be true, but the circumstances preclude credibility. Who really won is rapidly passing into the realm of the unknowable.

The issue is not which of two free skates was better -- Salé/Pelletier vs. Berezhnaya/Sikarulidze can be debated endlessly, but it's not the point. The issue is a judging system that appears to the casual observer to be venal and corrupt.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:20 AM on February 18, 2002

Why, either you misunderstood the translation or simply made a sloppy error in your FPP. The article does not say that LeGougne felt pressured to vote for the Canadians rather than the Russians. It says that when confronted on the basis of rumors by Stapleford, she felt pressured to admit malfeasance and so, "fragile" as she allegedly is, she failed to properly deny having done so.

Since her vote was thrown out, it's safe to say that she's considered at best untrustworthy by both sides, and that this is a clear attempt at saving face. Notably, it is in a French magazine, which also has a clear interest in arguing in favor of its judges' integrity.

A more accurate translation of the key passage:

Mrs. Stapleford, President of the commission of artistic technique, (...) who has Anglo-Canadian dual nationality, attacked me, while reproaching me for having voted for the Russians (...) It is she who suggested to me that I had been pressured on behalf of the French Federation and its president, Didier Gailhaguet. Feeling threatened morally and physically, I did not contradict her remarks immediately.
posted by dhartung at 9:38 AM on February 18, 2002

According to THIS ARTICLE from Reuters, "The French judge said that she had been pressured for months to vote for the Canadian couple and claimed she was threatened after the Olympic competition and forced to admit she had acted under instructions from the French figure skating federation." That for two years the pressure had been on to vote for the Canadians, not the Russians, and when confronted about her vote in SLC, she "Admitted acting under the guidance of the French federation". To sum it up, she is the hero in this twisted affair. Okeytay...
posted by Mack Twain at 10:22 AM on February 18, 2002

In the post-judging wrap-up she broke down and said "I can't take it. You don't understand the pressure that was put on me" by the president of the Frensh skating federation.

Regardless of which way that pressure was place, it's clear that if it affected her so much that she broke down and 'confesed to nothing' after voting, then whether she voted *for* or *against* the pressure, that pressure still likely ended up influencing her vote, and that vote should have been dropped, as it was.

Even if the collusion was intended to favor the Canadians, the skaters themselves shouldn't be punished and the scores without the French judge came out even, hence two golds. I have no problem with this. Mm-kay?

Oh, and the 'hero' would have said something before having judged the competition, not after.
posted by kfury at 10:50 AM on February 18, 2002

This story on CBC Sports Online, for those who can't get past the Google translation. Though the Reuters article posted above goes into more detail. And here's the AP wire story on the Globe and Mail's Olympics web site (links to globeandmail.com have gotten weird here before, so no guarantees).

Anyone else think this story's getting, um, strange? Whatever the truth is, this woman is not her own best advocate.
posted by mcwetboy at 11:43 AM on February 18, 2002

So, what you're saying is, the French gave under pressure?
No, that can't be right.
posted by dong_resin at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2002

But the *best* part is the quote in the linked article:

"I did not want to express me immediately, but I smell myself so dirtied. I do not have anything any more to lose."
posted by acridrabbit at 2:18 PM on February 18, 2002

Even if the collusion was intended to favor the Canadians, the skaters themselves shouldn't be punished and the scores without the French judge came out even, hence two golds. I have no problem with this. Mm-kay?

Well, under the circumstances, I don't really have a problem with it... except that it's completely against the rules.

1) If the skaters actually tied in the long program (giving them both a score of 1 in the long), Berezhnaia and Sikharulidze would still be sole holders of the gold medal, because they won the short program (a score of .5 in the short) over Sale and Pelletier (a score of 1 in the short; total these factored placements, low score wins). The short program victory was not a controversial one at all.

2) During an event, the back up judge and the referee are also scoring the skaters, in case a judge becomes incapacitated during the event. Then the back up scores can be used. In theory this could have been done, and rumor is that S&P would have won in this case. However, there is no allowance in the rules for doing this after the event has ended.

Now, I think under the circumstances that this was probably the best solution. No, wait, make that second-best. A reskate with a different judging panel would be the best. :) But I do think that this opens a big can o' worms.
posted by litlnemo at 3:09 PM on February 18, 2002

But, if the French judge is suspect, wouldn't they consider tossing her scores for the short program, too? That makes it weird for the total. Has anyone checked to see the impact of going to the backup scores for the entire event?

Yah, this was just a weird thing, all around.
posted by dwivian at 3:38 PM on February 18, 2002

dwivian, the Russians won by 7 judges to 2 in the short. So it wouldn't make a difference if the French judge's scores were thrown out in that event. (And like I said, it wasn't really a controversial decision, so the back up scores would likely have had B&S in first as well.)
posted by litlnemo at 4:00 PM on February 18, 2002

Cool! I missed the short, and I knew you would have the answers. I appreciate all your commentary on this issue, litlnemo! I have learned so much about skating beyond the fact that my sister can find it on TV any time she wants. Me, I have to wait two months for a good Sumo basho. *sigh*
posted by dwivian at 8:24 AM on February 19, 2002

The situation seems to present the age-old divide between art and craft. I thought the Russians' skating was pure poetry in motion, even though there was a small thechnical mistake in the presentation. The Canadians were flawless in craft, but did not offer any great "substance". They both deserved a gold medal.
posted by semmi at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2002

dwivian, I like skating and sumo. :)

I don't really have all the answers, and certainly I get things wrong sometimes, but I'm glad I was able to help make skating a little more clear. It is not a perfect sport, but it is a good one.
posted by litlnemo at 5:02 PM on February 19, 2002

That judge is so full of shit her eyes are brown and her breath stinks. Read these two excerpts:

Then, the meeting took a bizarre turn. Pfenning, known as a gentle and meticulous caretaker of skating, handed out a piece of paper to each judge around the table, with a passage about honesty and integrity, officials said.

As each person passed back the pieces of paper, the judge Marie Reine LeGougne began to sob, officials said.

"It was a rambling avalanche of words," Pfenning said when reached by telephone. "I hadn't asked her a question. She had been teary-eyed through a lot of the meeting. It was an outburst: `You don't understand. You don't understand. We're under an awful lot of pressure. My federations, my president Didier, I had to put the Russians first.' "

[...]For several minutes, the wail from LeGougne, the stylish 40- year-old Frenchwoman, grew so loud, one official said a person in the room stripped tape over the crack in the door in an apparent soundproofing effort.
Le Gougne said she had been accosted after the competition by ISU technical committee chairwoman Sally Stapleford. Le Gouge said Stapleford criticized her for voting for the Russians and suggested that Le Gougne would never win a spot on the prestigious technical committee. Le Gougne told L'Equipe she was so upset by this that she broke down in the event-review meeting the next morning and erroneously accused the French federation and Gailhaguet of pressuring her.

Stapleford called the accusation "ridiculous" and noted that three others -- U.S. attorney John Jackson, an ISU judge, and ISU technical committee members Britta Lindgren of Sweden and Walburga Grimm of Germany -- witnessed her encounter with Le Gougne.

Stapleford said Le Gouge approached her in the hotel lobby as she was waiting for an elevator shortly after the Feb. 11 pairs final and volunteered that she had been pressured to cast her vote that night. Stapleford declined to reveal precisely what Le Gougne said.

"She obviously felt emotional or guilty or whatever," Stapleford said. "What she said to me, I immediately reported to the [ISU] president and referee of the event. . . . Obviously, the woman is distressed."

Said Lindgren: "I passed by Sally and she wanted Marie Reine to repeat what she had just told her. She repeated it, and it was very clear. She was really upset. There was a pressure applied from somebody else, but absolutely not Sally."

Stapleford, Lindgren and Grimm signed the letter, Lindgren and Stapleford said.
posted by NortonDC at 4:08 AM on February 20, 2002

She's French. The people who are accused of pressuring her are French. The people who interviewed her are French sports writers. The reputation of the entire French figure skating association is at stake. It's not surprising that they would publish these back-pedaling, defensive remarks.

I've seen the criticisms of Sale and Pelletier's work, saying that it was derivative or substantially similar to a routine they'd been doing for over two years, or that they sacrificed expression for precision. Perhaps, but then the Russians actually screwed up, and if that isn't to count against, the whole point of the competition is made moot.

Perhaps there are stylistic approaches that are in opposition, or perhaps there's just an old-boy's-network of figure skating. Look at the entire history of the sport and you find these accusations on a regular basis, proved often enough to be troubling. If nothing else, this has provoked the international federation into proposing rules changes to the IOC, which will not only bring them in line with other international figure skating competitions, it may eliminate bloc vote trading. (Individual vote agreements will never be possible to completely police.) There's still a risk that the anonymity of the new system will conceal abuses rather than make the system more transparent -- that's a trade-off of this sort of reform. (Making things fully accountable requires putting the responsibilty on as few people as possible, but that gives those responsible a lot more power. It's a truism.)

Sadly, the one thing that may be most effective of all -- a suspension of the entire French association -- will probably never happen. There ought to be a penalty for this kind of malfeasance, and the people doing the policing ought to have to bear it if they fail at that job.
posted by dhartung at 7:10 AM on February 20, 2002

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