Dick Button, the most recognized name in figure skating, along with another 12,000 skaters, coaches and skating fans from around the world, have signed a petition demanding the resignation of Ottavio Cinquanta from his post as president of the International Skating Union (ISU). This is an unprecedented protest against the highest official presiding over two sports: figure skating and speed skating.
The petition happens to coincide with an official protest from the South Korean Olympic Committee related to the scandal that erupted at the Sochi Olympics in the women’s competition. Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova won the event under questionable circumstances, beating then-reigning Olympic Champion Yuna Kim of South Korea. The South Korean protest is now in Cinquanta’s hands, with no response from him yet.
But the grievances against Cinquanta listed in the petition go way beyond the Sochi scandal, focusing instead on the damage the ISU president has inflicted on figure skating over the decades. A speed skater, Cinquanta has presided over an unprecedented decline in the history of figure skating. This downturn is directly correlated to the radical changes he has made to the sport in spite of his self-professed lack of understanding of figure skating. Moreover, Cinquanta is serving an unprecedented term to which he would not have been entitled under the ISU constitution due to his age. Unwilling to leave office, Cinquanta demanded and obtained a revision to that constitution in 2012, which now allows him to stay in office until 2016.
But while Cinquanta may refuse to leave the presidency, no one outside the ISU wants him to stay. This is especially true with members of the figure skating community, who feel they are at the mercy of a man determined to kill their sport.
In a recent column in Newsweek, two-time Olympic Champion Dick Button wrote, "Nowhere are foxes put in charge of the henhouse—nowhere, that is, except in skating. For more than a decade, the International Skating Union (ISU) has been presiding over the decline of figure skating … How does the ISU respond? For almost 40 years, it has been run by speed skaters. The current president frankly admits, 'I am a speed skater. I know nothing about figure skating.' He can’t even whistle as the ship sinks."
The most serious grievances against Cinquanta are the introduction of anonymous judging, which has made skating more prone to cheating than ever before; the elimination of the century-long 6.0 judging system and implementation of a complex new system many consider detrimental to the sport; his refusal to leave office; and, most importantly, his continued interference with a sport which, by his own admission, he does not understand.
Just last month, Cinquanta sent out an email to ISU members with shocking new suggestions for changes, including a proposal to abolish the short program in figure skating. Most skating experts believe such a move would jeopardize the sport’s survival. In her recent report to the U.S. Figure Skating Governing Council, Patricia St. Peter, the president of U.S. Figure Skating, stated that the suggestion is not a formal proposal to the upcoming 2014 ISU Congress, but that if had been, “U.S. Figure Skating would have strongly and vigorously advocated against it.” Since Cinquanta is discussing it, however, the proposed change may well come up for a vote in the future.
In addition to Button, petition signatories include many former champions and medalists, such as world champions Tai Babilonia and Tim Wood. Famous coaches joined the anti-Cinquanta bandwagon as well, including Kerry Leitch, Evelyn Kramer, and Evy Scotvold, who coached Oympic medalists Paul Wylie and Nancy Kerrigan to world fame.