Earlier this week, the ISU published a detailed communication describing the actions of Ms. Natalia Kruglova of Ukraine at the 2012 Cup of Nice competition. In short, it is reported that Kruglova approached another judge on the Senior Pairs panel and asked her to give higher Grades of Execution for the technical elements (ie. a +1 instead of a 0). This was likely due to the fact that the ISU had established minimum technical scores needed for each skater or team that needed to be reached in order to participate in the 'Championship' events (Europeans, Four Continents, World Juniors, Worlds). A slight boost on each of the elements, and the team had a much better chance to hit the benchmark needed.
The 2013 World Championships took on extra importance because 80% of the qualifying spots for the Sochi Olympic Games were determined by the skaters' final placements. Had the Ukrainian team (Julia Lavrentieva and Yuri Rudyk) qualified to compete in London, Ontario, they could have been among the 16 'spots' earning an automatic entry for their country had they placed high enough in the final results. In the end, the team did not reach the minimum technical score and will be vying for one of the four remaining Olympic entries at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September.
First and foremost, credit should be given both to the judge who reported the incident and to the referee of the event, Jeroen Prins of the Netherlands, who proceeded with the necessary steps to have action taken against the offending judge. While this can be seen as revolutionary and a stepping stone to getting dishonesty and cheating out of the International Skating Union, I have my reservations.
Remember when I wrote about Italian judge Walter Toigo copying the marks of the judges around him during a Junior Grand Prix competition in 2010? His incident was caught on video and looked into by the ISU. In turn, they issued him a two-year ban. The date of this ban was on or near February 18, 2011.
Sound good so far?
At the 2013 World Championships, less than one month after coming out of his ban, Walter Toigo was on the judging panel for the mens free skating competition. I was assured by those 'in-the-know' prior to writing this article that Toigo definitely received no additional training after coming out of his suspension, and he did not have to take any kind of competency test with the ISU to verify that he understood the system. Instead, it was more of a situation where once the ban was lifted, he retained the credential to judge the 'Championship' events. Italy named him as their judge, and essentially no questions were asked.
If I see a judge copying every single grade of execution from another judge, this tells me that the judge either A) doesn't care and doesn't want to be there or B) doesn't know what he is doing.
If it leans more towards A, problem solved: don't assign him another event and tell him to volunteer in something he actually enjoys.
If it's B, don't you think the ISU should make sure he receives adequate training on the IJS so that he does not feel the need to copy off of other judges? Also, is it really the best idea to assign him to the WORLD Championship as his very first event back after serving a suspension?
This is where the powers that be need to step it up. Do you think that judges who are caught cheating should be banned for life? If not, is the two-year suspension fair? If you lean towards the latter, do you believe that both the national federation and ISU should take much more interest in re-training from the bottom up in hopes that cheating does not happen again? In my opinion, Toigo should have been put through courses re-training him as a judge, and then he should have been judging some regional or national-level competitions for a long while before he even had the option of being appointed to another ISU event.
As far as we all know, Toigo might have taken a two-year vacation and come back with no better understanding of the way the sport is scored.
Come on, ISU.