This probably isn't what the organizers had in mind when they thought the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics would build relations across borders. Russian and American figure skating judges are being accused of colluding to fix events.
The source is the French magazine L’Equipe, which wrote Saturday that the United States and Russia are conspiring to help one another in the pairs and ice dance events, with Canada’s reigning Olympic dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir paying the price.
Quoting an unidentified Russian coach, the magazine reported that the U.S. had agreed to help Russia win the pairs and team event. In exchange, it reported, Russia would help U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the reigning world champions, win gold in their event.
Beverley Smith of the National Post (via Canada.com) wrote that this is an issue that some have been talking about going back to the 2013 Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan:
Some experts noted that Davis and White were noticeably off time in their twizzles (travelling rotations) in the short dance in Japan — and yet three judges awarded them maximum marks for execution. They outscored the Canadians by 0.07 points. The gap widened in the free skate to an eventual margin of 1.35.
“If one is better than the other, I really hope they [judges] let it happen,” says Paul MacIntosh, a dance coach who developed Virtue and Moir, but who also admires Davis and White. “I do fear. I was worried at Grand Prix Final, because I thought Tessa and Scott were spot on. And we didn’t win either portion, but we were better both days, way better the first day. For sure. No question.
“And they didn’t let it happen.”
USA Today's Gary Mihoces has Davis' response to the accusations:
That's the first time we're hearing that so that's unfortunate that there's an article. But we're so focused on our jobs, and we really don't know a whole lot about anything else. I think we're confident that what we're putting out on the ice kind of speaks for itself.
Barbara Reichert, U.S. Figure Skating's director of communications, also issued a statement (per Mihoces), saying, "Comments made in a L'Equipe story are categorically false. There is no 'help' between countries. We have no further response to rumors, anonymous sources or conjecture."
Many will immediately make the comparison to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. The Canadian pairs skaters initially missed out on a gold medal after a French judge accused her country's federation of placing her under a heavy amount of pressure to vote for the Russian pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. Two gold medals were eventually given out, with nobody winning the silver.
Of course, the circumstances surrounding this most recent claim are much different.
The United States counted on Davis and White to boost their standing in the team event. Things got off to a rocky start following Jeremy Abbott's seventh-place finish in the men's short program. The American pair went on to finish first on Saturday, elevating the U.S. to third overall.
Russia is in first place, with Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov winning the short program pairs event.
Since the Olympics began in Sochi, it seems that there has only been bad news, whether it's the poor hotel conditions, failure of the city to complete public-works projects, the stray dog population and even a malfunctioning snowflake in the opening ceremony.
This alleged collusion is yet another negative story that will dominate the Olympic discussion.