FIGURE SKATING OFFICIAL BREAKS SPORT'S CODE OF SILENCE IN NEW BOOK

  Sonia Bianchetti charges that "lax" International Skating Union has not cleaned up its act since 2002 Olympic judging scandal

MILAN , ITALY .  ( October 22, 2004 ) In a personal history spanning her 40 years with the International Skating Union (ISU), legendary figure skating judge Sonia Bianchetti charges that the problem of bloc judging, which culminated in the pair judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, is "more virulent than ever."

Cracked Ice:  Figure Skating's Inner World, due for release in mid-November, is the first book written by someone from the secretive inner circles of Olympic-level figure skating officials and rule makers.  Bianchetti, who was a judge or referee at seven consecutive Olympic Games, was the first woman to serve on the powerful ISU Council.  In Cracked Ice, she describes an organization in which officials are punished for speaking out or even proposing a vote, minutes of meetings are changed after the fact, Council members learn of decisions for the first time from journalists seeking quotes, and corrupt judges are given slaps on the wrist and routinely reassigned to panels.  The ISU leadership has been so lax, Bianchetti writes, that the ISU did not even appoint a treasurer to check the finances until 1992 or a legal advisor to check contracts routinely until 1994.

During her time as chairperson of the ISU Figure Skating Technical Committee, Bianchetti was instrumental in bringing figure skating into the modern era.  She led the charge to eliminate compulsory figures from competition, invented international training seminars for the judges and wrote the judges' handbooks, and constructed the scoring system for the short program.  She was renowned for her incisive mind and her strong will.  In 1977, when she found that the Soviet federation was instructing its judges to favor Soviet skaters, the entire federation was suspended for a year upon her proposal.

"Figure skating is living through a very crucial moment.  During the last decade, in the ISU governing body and some of its Members, politics have seemed to prevail over the interests of the sport and the athletes," said Bianchetti.  "As in a regime, freedom of expression is denied; no kind of dissent, even if constructive, is tolerated, be it from judges, competitors, coaches or ISU officials.  The scandal in the pair skating event at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City was, in my opinion, only the tip of the iceberg.  The way this scandal was handled by the ISU President, Ottavio Cinquanta, and the decisions adopted during the following months prove an all too clear intent of the current administration to cover up the scandals rather than remove the crooks.  To turn judging into a 'top secret' affair was, in my opinion, the worst decision ever made by the ISU in its 100-year history.  Making the judging process secret and extremely complex does not help to restore the credibility of the sport -- on the contrary!  Every single judge could be cheating now and the public would never know it.

"All of a sudden, the efforts made through the years by many sincerely devoted ISU office holders to improve the sport and the way it was judged simply vanished," Bianchetti continued.  "I then felt it was a moral duty towards the skaters, the honest judges (who are the large majority), the coaches and all those who love the sport to come forward and make public my experience as an ISU office holder."

Cracked Ice  includes introductions or cover quotes from Olympic champion Dick Button, Olympic champion coach Tamara Moskvina, Olympic champion coach Tatiana Tarasova, Olympic champions Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov, Olympic champion Robin Cousins, world champion Brian Orser, and Australian figure skating president Donald McKnight.

Cracked Ice can be ordered starting Saturday, October 23 at www.soniabianchetti.com.

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