|Two of these things are not like the other three.|
This post, though, looks once more at the secrecy with which figure skating operates, not just behind the judges' panel but within the organization itself. And more than secrecy, the vague. And how this vague is accepted not just within the sport, but by the media that covers the sport, that legitimizes figure skating as a sport.
Law enforcement and the media call traditionally structured crime organizations of Italian origin the "mafia," or "national crime syndicate," but these organizations historically called themselves "cosa nostra" - "our thing".
I've also been thinking about David Dore:
Dore does know figure skating. I think he's more influential about how figure skating is judged on a grass roots, skater-by-skater basis, than Cinquanta.
About Dore, wikipedia says (yes, I know, but one must start somewhere), first, that he was a Canadian skater, then an international skating judge (seven World championships and the 1984 Olympics), then in 1972 he was "a director" of the Canadian Figure Skating Association (now Skate Canada) and then its president from 1980-1984. He's got a long long long history with Skate Canada.
"Dore was at times a controversial leader, known for promoting policies whereby CFSA's national team athletes and coaches were expected to work directly under the control of the central organization. He has also been criticized for failing to support Canadian judge Jean Senft when she acquired evidence of judging corruption at the 1998 Winter Olympics."
"Dore resigned from his paid position at Skate Canada in early 2002 in order to become eligible for an elected position with the ISU. He was elected the Vice President for figure skating at the 2002 ISU Congress and was re-elected in 2006. He has become known as a strong supporter of Ottavio ("Speedy") Cinquanta's policies, such as the adoption of the ISU Judging System and keeping the identity of figure skating judges secret."
I know many people are more familiar with the ISU structure and history than I am, but it's not as if the ISU makes it a simple matter of search and click to get the lowdown on who's who, how it's structured, and who the players are below the very top. For instance, it's easy to find the ISU president, not so easily members of the governing councils. There's more transparency in the actual cosa nostra, actually. Just google. With the ISU, not so, especially when it comes to what the skaters "hear" and who decides what it is skaters should "hear". The who, what, when, where, why and how about that is impenetrable.
This somewhat older article (2012):
mentions that at the time the article was written, Cinquanta is a lame duck, and that, while Dore is his logical successor, Dore is getting on in years (me: you'd think that would make him a shoo-in with the ISU), he's eligible for the presidency in 2014 only, and not if the elections are delayed until 2016, which is what some people apparently wanted, for the express purpose of preventing him from becoming president.
I'll amend this post as I acquire a clearer picture of things, but the above article (again - 2012) also mentions that former Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie and French Fed member Didier Gailhaguet are among the aspirants for the presidency. Lavoie himself not long ago resigned Skate Canada in order to throw himself into the embrace of the ISU. We can be sure he made that decision only after devoting himself 1,000% to the best interests of Skate Canada and its figure skaters during his tenure at president, and never once let himself be influenced by a desire to curry favor with the ISU, where his future lay.
Here, let's observe that, for quite some time now, and for all of Scott Moir's public support, Mike Slipchuk has sounded cavalier in almost all of his public commentary. The results of a given competition hardly engage his interest. He was near-dismissive about what happened at the Olympics to Scott and Tessa, didn't seem especially fussed by Patrick Chan's disappointing skates, and I don't think uttered a peep of complaint about the GPF either. He's not pressed about anything. He's been super laid back for a long time, even though he's not the one getting fucked.
In fact, looking ahead to the coming Olympic quad, Slipchuk thinks everything's fine with all things Canadian Olympics, because MTM or Duhamel/Radford or both could make the 2018 podium, so why sweat it (I've heard lame shit from SC before but that remark was almost insulting in its lack of effort).
He hasn't seemed to care since about 2008. Since then, no matter what happens with Skate Canada's skaters, he's told us everything is the best in this best of all possible worlds.
In the mix is Scott Moir's family. His family's business depends upon an amicable relationship with Skate Canada, so, if you're getting screwed in your own house, you really have to turn the other cheek, so to speak, or maybe find a more convenient scapegoat (such as the coach. Or the Russians.).
This past quad and the end of the last quad saw a pattern of overscoring for DW coupled with a pattern of undermining Virtue and Moir not just in how they were scored but in late day suggestions to change something in their program at the risk of it impacting their scores. Scott and Tessa were often faced with either adding material that wasn't yet in their muscle memory or in their timing, which put them at risk of making a visible error, thus negatively impacting their scores, or ignoring these suggestions and seeing it negatively impact their scores, all just prior to the season's culmination at the World Championships.
I want to know how this was relayed to Scott and Tessa and by whom, and by what authority, and what was the procedure and process behind it. For sure, there wasn't some repeated collective unconscious conclusion that was transmitted telepathically to the skaters, but, as reported by the media, there may as well have been.
Nobody, including the press, seems to think it's bizarre that the process is unknown and described so elliptically, with no specificity. No names. No acknowledged chain of decision-making.
The reason I'm just putting a few people on stage in this post, such as David Dore, is I want to know how come we only get abstractions like "grapevine" and "word reached them" when Scott and Tessa appear to have been advised to do this or that type of program or lose or change this or that element. Why the bullshit? Why no specifics? It's only the judging panel's votes that are supposed to be secret, not the workings of the entire organization. And I want to know why these abstractions are accepted by a press that continues to pretend this is an actual sport.
By googling organized crime, it's easy to trace a decision back to its origin - whether it's how to divide territory, take someone out (whack someone) or everyday business, like this guy was told by this other guy to talk to this third guy about this other person because it was making the guy over there mad. Find something like that going on and law enforcement can usually slap a name on every member of the cast and what they did and who said what and when. And why.
The ISU, OTOH, is opaque. At a grass roots, skater-by-skater basis, it becomes very nebulous, but that's where the dirt gets done.
When this stuff happened to Scott and Tessa, when they'd get their chains jerked at the end of a season, it happened under what official mechanism or process? What IS the process? What controls it? What monitors it? What rules govern it? What are the names and what is their authority and from what position of authority are they communicating? Who tells the judges at an event that Scott and Tessa have been "spoken to" about something (as the judges would need to be alerted to possibly disallow or deduct for the something Scott and Tessa were warned about so vaguely).
This isn't a Bronte novel - you don't hear things in the wind. Somebody talks to the coach or talks to the skaters.Who? And who talks to the person who talked to the coach and the skaters? And who specifically, who particularly, had the conversation that put Scott and Tessa's various suddenly-in-question moves on the table, and who, in particular, each time, was delegated to inform Scott and Tessa, and who was told - the coach or Scott and Tessa?
What are the names? What are their positions? When do they have these conversations, when do they decide they're all like minded, under what authority do they decide something that was legal last month isn't legal now? Scott and Tessa habitually found themselves hamstrung late in the season, almost as if the sport didn't want them to get their sea legs under them, as if the point was to destabilize them, get them off-kilter on ice, helping along that reputation of "making mistakes" in order to justify predetermined placements.
The skaters don't tell us.The press is the usual - huh duh - when it passes this stuff on, which is another weird thing.The press seems to accept that this "sport" IS like the cosa nostra. But the press also assures us that ice dance is not corrupt, at least not in North America. Even though figure skating is so resolutely secret and vague about things like whether what champion skaters are doing is legal or not. Oh no, says the press, it's fair fair fair. Don't whine! Don't get hysterical.
Why is it so impossible to find out the mechanisms that get these sorts of balls rolling, and put some names on who got involved? Who, for instance, specifically - names, position, etc. - got together and decided Scott and Tessa should do lyrical for the 2014 Olympics and how and by whom were Scott and Tessa informed?
I know there are discussions and feedback after competitions but I also know these people talk among themselves, and I ALSO know that the bit about the 2010 od move at Worlds reached Scott and Tessa before they skated, not in the feedback after they skated. But at the same time, there has to be something official about what reaches the skaters because this is a sport governed by rules.
But I do not know who and by what authority they were told, and if they were told by some authority, how come they weren't told definitively.
I am wondering if what happened with Scott and Tessa at Sochi is they were sold out by their own Federation, and by ex-members of their Federation, because of the very warm relationship between the ISU and the ambitions of some of Skate Canada's highest ranking members.The silence, and, when not silence, downplaying, by those who ought to be Scott and Tessa's biggest advocates is a pretty strong indicator; their treatment at the past two Canadians is another strong indicator.
It's no secret that Skate Canada is full of people who put self-interest ahead of the interests of Skate Canada. For the longest time the most visible example was Debbi Wilkes, but of course, somebody had to be allowing Debbi Wilkes, who had the title of Director of Business Development, to spend her time on the inane promotion of Debbi Wilkes while Skate Canada bled sponsors. Skate Canada seems to be about personal - individual - self-interest, not organizational best interest, not skater best interest.That's the recent history.
It's not just the USFSA and the ISU that are dirty here, in fact, it might not even be the USFSA that is primarily dirty here, but Skate Canada.You have a Federation concerned with what they perceive to be organizational best interest (the USFSA, presumably), and a Federation populated with officials concerned with personal self interest (Skate Canada), and an ISU whose highest ranking figure skating community member comes from Skate Canada and has influence with Skate Canada.
I am not letting the likes of the USFSA's Shawn Rettstatt off the hook, but I see him as an outcome, not a prime mover. What created the environment that allowed Davis White's mistakes to be ignored or get full credit, and Scott and Tessa's mistakes to be egregiously lowballed at best, or invented (as in the Olympics) at worst? That happened before Rettstatt, and he's not the only judge - it takes a lot of judges ignoring what DW are not doing and lowballing what Scott and Tessa actually do, and taking a couple of levels off just for insurance.
And Scott and Tessa can't complain because - Ilderton Skating Club.
I don't even like saying "what" created the environment, or even using the names of organizations, because that makes everything too abstract, as if none of this is attached to actual, specific people. It's always attached to actual people, and is here. But here, we're never told who's involved, even when something is presented as legitimate, such as when the ISU and Skate Canada were constantly throwing trip wires in Scott and Tessa's path. The press reported that Scott and Tessa were told this or that, but the press never bothered to ask who told them or how it reached them and what exactly was communicated. They never questioned why it wasn't communicated in the manner of a real, grown up sport - with specificity and relating to a specific section of the rules, and with someone's name on the communication, and that name made public. This stuff doesn't interest the people who write about figure skating.
So "who", not "what" is the question. Who? It's a person, it's people, it's a group, they have names, they have jobs.
When I think about DW's trajectory, and the things they were told, the picture is much clearer. Marina was contacted by the members of the USFSA about sticking DW with "Phantom" for 2010 Olympics. I'm sure I could go to the USFSA website, look at the breakdown of who holds what position and who handles what, and figure out what section of the USFSA would be interested in this, what bunch was likely to have attended Champs Camp, and from where the concern sprung. Same thing when Le Strada was ditched - DW went into Champs Camp with Le Strada and came out knowing they needed new music. There's nothing mysterious about where the feedback is coming from and who is giving it.
It's mysterious with Scott and Tessa. It's all very vague.This doesn't happen in hockey. If there's an issue in a real sport, a controversy, any one of us can go to the web, click around and find a name and a quote or a report that tracks the chain of authority.
Not only don't we have that in skating, but apparently the media takes pains to let us know it's a sure sign of hysteria to even ask questions about how all this works. Figure skating can appear arcane, but this isn't something the sport itself should encourage or excuse. It should encourage the media to become more informed about the technical side of the sport. I think if the media felt any pushback from the sport itself a few journalists might take some time out of their day to know what they're talking/writing about. But the sport seems to prefer that the media write about skating as if it's a pageant.That's what the sport itself wants. It doesn't want an informed media, and it doesn't want an informed public. BUT it isn't corrupt. Not in North America.
Transparency is an indispensable indicator of anything's legitimacy. People - individuals - can be compromised. Public relations is about spin - spin is putting the most positive construction on something. But at bottom there has to be transparency, because transparency is the key to accountability, and without accountability, it's not legitimate. This quad has been revealing, not just about figure skating, but about the complicity of the press in enabling the (continued) corruption of figure skating.