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2020 News Nuggets

2 Jan. 2020 - World bronze medalist Vincent Zhou announced today that he will begin training with Lee Barkell and Lori Nichol in Toronto, Canada. Zhou will also continue to train with Mie Hamada. Zhou had previously been coached by Tammy Gambill, Christy Krall and Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs.

“I can’t thank Tammy, Christy and Tom enough for all they have done for me and my career,” Zhou said. “I’m excited to begin training with Lee, and also work more regularly with Lori, in Toronto, and continue to work with Mie.”

Zhou withdrew from both of his Grand Prix assignments this season to focus on school this fall.  He has since decided to begin a gap year at Brown University to focus on figure skating.  He is scheduled to next compete at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

6 Jan. 2020 - U.S. Figure Skating has selected the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas as the host for 2020 Skate America, Oct. 23-25, 2020, and the host for the 2021 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, Feb. 24-27, 2021.

Skate America, which will return to Las Vegas after a successful 2019 event, will be the first competition of the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series.

Tickets for Skate America will go on sale later this spring.

“We received an overwhelmingly positive response from skaters and fans in regard to their experience at 2019 Skate America,” U.S. Figure Skating president Anne Cammett said. “The convenience of having the host hotel within a short walk of the Orleans Arena was heavily considered in the decision to return. We also heard good things from the skaters and coaches about the arena, the ice and the professional staff at the Orleans Arena.”

“After hosting a successful 2019 Skate America competition, The Orleans and Boyd Gaming are honored to continue the great relationship that has been built with U.S. Figure Skating with its decision to bring Skate America back to the Orleans Arena Las Vegas in 2020,” Executive Director of the Orleans Arena Rex Berman said. “This continues our proud tradition of hosting Olympic style events, and we cannot wait to welcome these world-class athletes back to the property.”

The 2021 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships will mark the first time that the event has been held in Las Vegas.

“U.S. Figure Skating is excited to showcase our premier synchronized skating event in Las Vegas,” Cammett said. “This is a great opportunity for the athletes, coaches, officials and fans to come to such a vibrant sports city. I’m looking forward to seeing the bleachers full, the banners waving and hearing the cheers at the Orleans Arena.”

8 Feb. 2020 - The president of France's ice sport federation, Didier Gailhaguet, resigned over a damaging sex abuse scandal engulfing his sport.  Four members of the federation board have also resigned.

In his resignation announcement Gailhaguet said, "In the spirit of conciliation I took the sensible decision to resign with philosophy, dignity but no bitterness."

In an autobiography published on January 30, former world championship bronze medalist Sarah Abitbol accused coach Gilles Beyer of raping her several times from 1990 to 1992 when she was between the ages of 15 and 17.  Other accusations have since followed including another skater, the parent of a skater, and another coach.

Gailhaguet's had led the French ice sport federation since 1998, except for a three-year international ban following the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics scandal, and from 2004 to 2007 following a critical auditor's report.

The French Sports Ministry, led by Roxana Maracineanu, has promised a thorough investigation of the accusations, most of which, if not all, predate Gailhaguet's tenure as federation chief.

The key question concerning federation officials is what did they know, when did they know it, and what action did they take to protect their athletes.  Beyer is described as having an executive position with the federation until 2018, and was also a national team coach for several years.

29 Feb. 2020 - The ISU confirmed the 2020 ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2020 will not be staged as originally scheduled on March 13-15, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea.  Authorities of the city of Seoul have closed the Mokdong Ice Rink and ordered the cancellation of all planned competitions. 
 
The ISU will evaluate the possibility of holding the Championships later in the year, but in any case not before mid-October 2020.  All other ISU Events for the season 2019/20 remain scheduled as planned.

The ISU advises that anyone with any symptoms of acute illness should NOT be traveling to ISU Events. Anyone seeking accreditation for ISU Events will be required to complete an ISU questionnaire and a temperature check.

Anyone with an acute illness or temperature will not be granted an accreditation. Instead they will be provided with a mask, isolated and will follow the protocol of the host country for testing and quarantine.

The ISU has implemented the following precautions at ISU Events aimed at all accredited persons for the prevention of contracting the Coronavirus:

  1. Questionnaire and health checks to be completed at arrival at the ISU Event  
  2. Health checks periodically throughout the ISU Event
  3. Availability of tests for coronavirus on anyone with a temperature
  4. Availability of masks for anyone who has cold-like symptoms or requests one. Please note that masks are not recommended for anyone who is healthy. Masks are recommended for anyone with symptoms.
  5. Isolation room(s) to be available if necessary
  6. Availability of hand sanitizer throughout the venue and the hotel
  7. Gloves to be available if requested
  8. Reinforce education regarding frequent hand washing, use of hand gel and cough etiquette.
  9. Reduce handshaking and close physical contact
  10. Educational sheet included in information on the ISU Events App.

Local Organizing Committees will be responsible to implement any necessary measures for the general public.

28 May - The 2020 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Canada Cancelled

With the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Skate Canada has cancelled the 2020 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Canada. The event was scheduled to take place from August 26-29, 2020 in Richmond, British Columbia.

22 June 2020 - Two-time and reigning U.S. champion Alysa Liu announced today that she will begin training under a new team of coaches, including Lee Barkell, Lori Nichol and Massimo Scali. She has worked with all the coaches except Barkell in the past.

Liu, who became the youngest lady to win a U.S. title at age 13 in 2019, will continue to be based in Oakland, California.

“I am very excited to announce that I will be training under the guidance of a new team of coaches including Lee Barkell, Lori Nichol and Massimo Scali," Liu said. "I look forward to working with all my coaches even though some of them are located in different parts of the world.”

Liu was previously coached by Laura Lipetsky.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank my former coach Laura Lipetsky for everything she has done for me since the beginning of my career,” Liu said. “We’ve worked so closely together, and she has helped me get to where I am today.”

Liu will compete as a junior internationally and senior domestically during the 2020-21 season.

20 Jul. 2020 - The ISU announces the Junior Grand Prix Series for 2020/21 is cancelled.  ISU Statement follows.

Since the last ISU Council meeting on July 6, the ISU has been informed of increased travel and entry restrictions which would seriously complicate the travel of Junior Skaters with the consequence that some ISU Members simply cannot or do not feel comfortable to send Junior teams to the remaining ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating countries. Furthermore, the potential extensive sanitary/ medical care measures (including possible quarantine) would put an unsustainable burden on the organizers.

Based on the advice of the Medical Commission and the Council appointed Working Group, the ISU Council has therefore concluded that the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating events of the season 2020/21 cannot be maintained and that all events of the series must be cancelled.

 If later during the season the pandemic developments and situation change and allow for the safe organization of international junior indoor events and some ISU Members wish to host an International Competition for Juniors, the ISU would consider financially assisting interested ISU Members, subject to receiving a detailed proposal. Preference will be given to ISU Members that had previously been allotted an ISU Junior Grand Prix event for the 2020/21 season.

The ISU regrets the cancellation of this popular junior series even though it is in line with the ISU policy to put the safety and health of event participants as the number one priority.

The ISU Council will meet again online on August 3 to evaluate the pandemic developments and related situation and to update the season planning for the ISU senior Events.

29 Sep. 2020 - French pairs figure skater Morgan Cipres and his partner, Vanessa James, retired from the sport on Tuesday amid allegations that Cipres sent lewd photos to a 13-year-old American figure skater on Instagram. Cipres is under investigation by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in Florida for allegedly direct messaging two photos of his penis to a 13-year-old American figure skater in 2017.

30 Sep. 2020 - The ISU announced today the cancellation of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, originally scheduled for Beijing/China - December 10-13, 2020

Regarding the test event, the ISU said, "Concerning the Olympic Test Events in Beijing there were also a number of logistical points raised by potentially participating teams that meant that hosting the competitions on the scheduled dates (close to the end of year holidays and National Championships) would have impacted on the number of participants, given the potential need to quarantine on returning to their home country."

In it's announcement the ISU also stated, "The ISU, in consultation with all stakeholders and considering the pandemic developments, is evaluating the continuation of the 2020/21 season, in particular the re-scheduling possibilities for the important Olympic Test Events. The ISU will communicate the conclusions at a later date."

6 Oct. 2020 - U.S. Figure Skating announced today two-time U.S. National Champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates have withdrawn from 2020 Skate America.

“After much consideration, we have decided to withdraw from Skate America,” Chock and Bates said. “Our training and preparation have been affected by the pandemic and at this time we are 100% focused on our preparation for the 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships. We will be staying at our training base in Montreal, but will certainly miss the thrill of competition and seeing our U.S. Figure Skating family. We wish everyone good health and good luck!”

16 Oct. 2020 -  The ISU today announced the cancelation of the Four Continents Championships in Figure Skating and Speed skating.  This follows on the heels of the announcement of the cancellation of Skate Canada International, the second previously planned stop for the 2020 Grand Prix, earlier this week.

The 2021 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships were to have been held in Sydney, Australia.  Sydney now has the provisional allotment for the 2023 Four Continents Championship.

2020 Skate America remains on track to be held next week using a stringent "bubble" approach; while cancellation of Skate France and Rostelcom Cup in the near future is a strong possibility.

 Russia is undergoing a recent surge in Covid cases in a second wave, with outbreaks among athletes in several sports reported. Cases are also on the rise in Europe, with localized lockdowns being reimposed, and more expansive lockdowns under consideration.

19 Oct. 2020 -  The ISU today announced the cancelation of the Internationaux of France, what would have otherwise been the fourth stop of the 2020 Grand Prix of Figure Skating.

Currently, China, Japan and Russia remain on the Grand Prix schedule.

24 Nov 2020 -  The ISU today announced the cancelation of the World Junior Figure Skating Championships which had been schedule to be held In Harbin, China on March 1-7, 2021.

The ISU also announced that the rescheduling of the Beijing Winter Olympics test event (which was to have been the now cancelled Grand Prix Final) remain under discussion.

10 Dec 2020 -  The ISU today announced the cancellation of the 2021 European championships, which had been scheduled for 21-31 January, 2021 in Zagreb Croatia.  The rink to be used for the competition is currently be used as a Covid-19 hospital ward and will be unavailable for the competition.  There is no other facility in Zagreb to hold the competition, the former arena being condemned due to earthquake damage.

The ISU also announced the cancellation of the Synchronized Junior World Championships which were supposed to take place in Lyon, France in March 2021, and the final cancellation of the 2020 Grand Prix Final, which to this point was only described as postponed.

The future of the test event for the Beijing Olympic Winter Games remains undecided.  The 2021 World Figure Skating Championships currently remains on the schedule, as an event that will be held without spectators.

17 Dec 2020 - Today the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced the Russia’s previous four-year suspension for systematic doping violations to two years.  Russia’s name, flag and anthem are banned from the next two Olympics and any world championships through December 16, 2022.

Only Russian athletes who are not implicated in doping or covering up positive tests can compete as individual athletes at major sporting events.  For figure Skating this includes the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, and ISU world championships in all disciplines.  Russian Government representatives are also barred from attending such events unless they are invited by the Prime Minister or head of state of the host country.

The ruling also prevents Russia from hosting or bidding to host major sporting events during its ban during the suspension.  Any events already awarded must be rescinded and re-assigned to another country, with the wiggle room that events can be hosted if "it is legally or practically impossible" to do so.

This case arises out of a ruling in December 2019 by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant and imposed four years of sanctions on Russia for falsifying results at the Moscow Laboratory.

RUSADA appealed these sanctions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which upheld WADA’s finding that RUSADA was non-complaint but halved the duration of the ban.

The case will cost RUSADA a pretty penny, being ordered to pay a fine of either 10% of its 2019 income or $100,000, whichever is less, to WADA. They must also pay $1,270,000 for the costs incurred by WADA, will also have to pay 80 per cent of the costs of the case, and to pay WADA 400,000 Swiss francs (about $452,000) for its legal and other expenses incurred in the case.

17 Dec 2020 - Today the ISU released the following statement.

The ISU welcomes the annulment by the General Court judgment on 16 December 2020 (Case T-93/18) of the provisions of the European Commission of 8 December 2017 requiring the ISU to amend its Eligibility Rules with respect to the CAS arbitration system. The General Court has confirmed that the CAS arbitration system is fully consistent with EU law.

The ISU also notes with satisfaction that the General Court has recognized the legitimacy of the ISU’s pre-authorization system intended to ensure that any organizer of sporting competitions “comply with common standards, seeking in particular to ensure that competitions take place fairly and the physical and ethical integrity of sportspeople is protected”. The ISU also notes that the General Court has expressly recognized that it was legitimate for the ISU “to establish rules seeking to prevent sports betting from creating risks of manipulation of competitions and athletes”.

The ISU maintains that its Eligibility Rules have never been enforced with a view to preventing the organization of third-party skating events and regrets that the judgment does not address the substantial evidence put forward by the ISU confirming this. Following the adoption of the 2017 Commission decision, the ISU amended its Eligibility Rules in 2018 pursuant to implementation discussions with the European Commission. The Court judgment relates to a version of the Eligibility Rules which is no longer in force and therefore has no impact on the ISU’s current operations.

The ISU is currently further evaluating the judgment and reserves an appeal to the European Court of Justice.

This is the culmination of a complaint that was brought before the European Commission in 2017.  The original case brief states:

The complaint was lodged by two professional speed skaters domiciled in the Netherlands, Mr Mark Tuitert and Mr Niels Kerstholt ("the Complainants"). Both of the Complainants are members of the Royal Netherlands Skating Federation ("KNSB") and, in the past, regularly participated in the activities and competitions of the ISU at the highest level. As individual members of the KNSB, which is itself an ISU Member, the Complainants are subject to the ISU Statutes and General Regulations, including the Eligibility rules and to decisions taken by the ISU Congress and the ISU Council.

The Complainants alleged in their complaint that the 2014 Eligibility rules establishing a lifetime ban for athletes and officials taking part in competitions not authorised by the ISU were in breach of Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty. In particular, the Complainants stressed that such rules prevented them from participating in an international speed skating event to be organised by Icederby International co., Ltd ("Icederby"), offering athletes an opportunity to make a better living out of their profession, thanks to the significant prize money and other sources of revenues (for instance, sponsoring).

The European Commission ruled against the ISU in 2017 and 2018 finding that the ISU eligibility rules breached EU competition law.  The ISU appealed to the EU General Court which on 16 December, 2020, ruled in favor of the ISU.

 
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