Just one official day into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, a rumor surfaced on Feb. 8 that judges for the U.S. and Russia were conspiring to fix the results of of the ice dance, team and pairs figure skating events.
The report, which ran in the French magazine L’Equipe on Feb. 7, accuses the two nations of working together to insure a victory for reigning world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of team USA in the ice dancing event in exchange for Russian wins in both the pairs and team events.
Officials for U.S. Figure Skating aggressively denied the report.
Although figure skating is no stranger to controversy, as evidenced by the now 20-year old bizarre scandal involving Americans Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, the magazine's claim carries an ironic twist. It was, after all, French judge Marie Reine Le Gougne who was "persuaded" by her federation to support Russian pairs skaters Elena Berezhnaia and Anton Sikharulidze in exchange for help for a French ice dancing couple at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. When the cheating was discovered by officials, Canadian Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who skated a virtually perfect program that received an inexplicably low mark from Le Gougne, were awarded a duplicate gold. The scandal paved the way for the implementation of the current revamped system that awards points to skaters in a significantly more objective fashion.
The accusations are also puzzling because the Russian pairs and team and the Americans don't need help in the referenced competitions. Although Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the reigning Olympic champions, Davis and White have been undefeated for nearly two years. Further, the Russian team holds a significant lead going into the Feb. 9 event finals, and Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are gold medal favorites in pairs skating.
Figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics continues Feb. 9 at 7 AM Pacific time with the men's free skate round, which is scheduled to feature American fan favorite Jason Brown competing on Olympic ice for the first time.