A Preview of Proposals to be Considered at the June ISU Congress

In June the 46th International Skating Union Congress will be held in Davos, Switzerland. ISU Congresses are held biannually to review and revise the constitution and rules of the ISU. The ISU is the international governing body of eligible competitive speed skating and figure skating. We report here on some of the pending proposals that directly relate to the conduct of competitive ice skating, both international and nationally. Although the ISU governs only the conduct of international competitions, the rules of the National Governing Bodies must generally be consistent with the rules of the ISU. Thus, the proposals passed in Davos will affect the conduct of competitions in the United States and Canada in the coming season. In some cases we describe here the individual proposals up for consideration, in others we summarize the intent of related proposals. Proposals are presented here in two groups: general issues, and skating standards and competition rules.

General Issues

Several proposals deal with the aims of the ISU and the scope of its jurisdiction. Some of these are quite benign, being general statements of purpose such as broadening interest in skating, increasing popularity, improving quality, and increasing participation throughout the world. Others are more specific, and perhaps sinister, intended to expand the involvement of the ISU into all forms of eligible skating and into the activities of its member nations; e.g., not only the ISU Championships, but also World Cup Competitions, all International Competitions, exhibitions, shows, tours, and performances/appearances. Currently the ISU does not get a piece of the action for every international competition, TV contract, sponsorship arrangement, exhibition, etc. These proposals are intended to require the involvement of the ISU in all such activities and contractual (i.e., financial) arrangements by giving the ISU exclusive promotional rights, organizational rights, and responsibilities in all ISU sanctioned events.

Along the above lines, one proposal calls for limiting a member's (nation's) financial incentive in an event to 10% plus cost (with the other 90% going to the ISU?). Another calls for giving all TV rights to all ISU sanctioned events to the ISU. Two proposals call for breaking out the Champions Series as a separate category of competitions and to give the ISU control over TV and advertising agreements. The ISU Council seeks to be given authority to determine the minimum prize money that could be awarded in an ISU sanctioned event; authority that could be used to break the bank of any competition they chose. They also seek ISU authority to organize any event beyond the championships that the ISU currently organize. In conjunction with other ISU Council proposals, they seek to set up the ISU as the sole promoter of international events. Another control related proposal reserves exclusive use of the words ISU Championships, World, or European to the ISU. No international competition could use those words without permission of the ISU.

The above, and related, proposals will be opposed by the U.S. as they would permit the ISU to take over the highly successful Champions Series, and to meddle in U.S. TV contracts and sponsorship arrangements. According to sources, some alarmists see this as an attempted first step leading to the ISU seeking to expand its role from the international to the national level; for example, becoming involved in the national championships of its member nations. These proposals might also tend to strengthen the position of IMG by increasing its influence in figure skating at the expense of the NGBs

A charmingly naive proposal comes from Romania to create a "fair-play" committee and to award prized for the fairest judge, skater, coach, etc. Boy, are they on a different page from the rest of the world. [If you haven't figured it out for yourself yet, skating now is only about power, winning and money.]

Several proposals call for bringing coaches into the activities of the ISU, including the creation of a Coaching Committee. Currently coaches are not permitted to serve as ISU committee members or officeholders. If passed, these proposals would allow coaches to serve on committees and commissions. Another proposal also calls for the creation of an advisory Skaters' Committee. [We expect the U.S. will vote for these proposals since both these come from the U.S.]

Dueling proposals to tweak the eligibility rules are up for consideration, none of these however mark a major philosophical shift from the current approach to eligibility. All of these, however, are designed to increase the ability of the NGBs to exert control over the participation of skaters in exhibitions.

Two proposals deal with procedures under which the ISU and member nations can pay stipends to competitors, judges, referees, and other officials. [With the U.S. planning to pay officials at the 1997 Nationals, expect paid officials, at least in major events, to become the norm in the near future.]

In seeking to expand its control of skating activities, the ISU Council proposes to allow the ISU to discipline individual skaters for violations of the eligibility rules. Currently the ISU can only discipline member nations or clubs, while discipline of skaters is the responsibility of the NGBs. It also proposes to allow the ISU to discipline skaters who refuse to appear in the exhibition following a competitions by forcing the NGBs to prevent that skater from appearing in another event for the following 60 days. In order to insure that member nations carry out the policies of the ISU another proposal calls for witholding ISU sanctions for events in member countries that do not toe the line. The U.S. will oppose these proposals.

The creation of a "Four Continents Figure Skating Championships" beginning in 1999 is proposed. This competitions would be equivalent to Europeans, open to skaters from non-European countries. It is also proposed that this competition and the European Championships would serve as qualifying competitions for the World Championships. The U.S. has no objection to the creation of this competition but opposes its establishment as a qualifying competition. An alternate proposal calls for the creation of continental championships as qualifying competitions. The formula by which the number of entries at the Olympics is determined is also up for consideration. If the current qualifying round format is retained at Worlds, it is proposed to change the manner in which the draw is conducted for the qualifying groups to better balance the difficulty of the groups.

The creation of a World Team Skating Championships beginning in 1999 is proposed. The creation of a World Junior Team Championships is also proposed, but opposed by the ISU Council

Several proposals call for increasing the age requirements for ISU Championships and the Winter Olympics. These seek to increase the age to 15. Other proposal calls for dropping the age requirements for junior international competitions to 12 and making the requirement for Junior Worlds 14. The ISU council opposes these proposals.

A proposal from France calls for revising the procedures under which foreign skaters may compete for a given nation. The purpose of this is to try and get country jumping and skater shopping under control.

Another proposal from France calls for scheduling Junior Worlds between January 1st and April 30th instead for the current time frame of end-November/early-December. The ISU council will support this if TV goes along. [A cynic might be thinking here, isn't it interesting that the issue is what is good for TV, not what is good for skating.]

In a fairly straightforward proposal dealing with doping is the interesting statement that "physical manipulations" will be forbidden. While this is intended to prohibit practices such as blood doping, it seems to also include any kind of physical therapy. Will this mean in the event of an injury a trip to the trainer will be forbidden? A proposal from the U.S. calls for all out of competition random drug testing be done through the member NGBs in accordance with the laws of the member nation. The ISU Council opposes this proposal. [The ISU is not the first European based international governing body on whom the concepts of due process and fair treatment of athletes are lost. One need only look at track and field for other examples.]

Several proposals deal with the amount of appearance fees skaters may receive in exhibition, all with the intent of removing restrictions in the amount that might be paid.

Skating Standards and Competition Rules

The creation of an Interpretive Program, and an Interpretive Free Skating Program is proposed. The Interpretive Program could be skated as a stand alone competitive event, as a second part with a free skating program, or as a third part with the short program and a free skating program. The Interpretive Free Skating Program could be combined with the short program in a two part event.
Proposed time limits:
Senior and Junior Interpretive Program 2.5 minutes for men and ladies
Senior Interpretive Free Skating Program 3.5 to 4 minutes for men, ladies, and pairs.
Interpretive free skating requirements proposed:
Ladies: three triple jumps maximum; Men: four triple jumps maximum. Men and Ladies: one jump sequence or combination, no restrictions on singles, doubles or spins.
Pairs: Three overhead lifts maximum (one may be a twist), one throw permitted, no triple jumps, one jump sequence or combination, one solo jump, one solo spin, no restrictions on other pair elements.

The holding of international senior and junior team skating competitions consisting of free skating programs only are proposed.

Limiting synchronized skating sizes to 16 to 24 for senior teams and 12 to 20 skaters for junior teams, with a maximum of four alternates is proposed. Another proposal calls for junior teams of 16 to 20. Yet another specifies 24 only for seniors, 20 only for juniors. A proposal to require teams be men or women only is also on the schedule.

Costume rule proposals call for allowing synchronized skatings to use sleeveless costumes. Another calls for again allowing men to wear tights (the traditional costume in former times).

Timing of the short program proposed to begin at the moment the skater first begins to move or skate. Elements completed after 2 minutes 40 seconds to be marked as omitted.

It is proposed to reduce the time of the junior pairs program to 3.5 minutes. (Current time limit is 4 minutes.)

Proposed changes to synchronized skating programs: wheels to be made of straight lines, a minimum of two revolutions required, backwards spirals prohibited in intersecting moves, intersecting moves to have one half of the team move through the other half.

Proposed changes to short program requirements:
Senior Men: one triple jump or quadruple jump (currently only a triple jump is allowed).
Senior Ladies: one triple jump - double jump no longer permitted; combination to be double with triple or triple with triple - double with double no longer permitted.
Junior Men: one triple jump - double no longer permitted; combination to be double with triple or triple with triple.
Junior Ladies: Double axel - single no longer permitted; one double jump or one triple jump.

Alternate proposal for junior short programs - consisting of three rotating groups of required elements as per the junior pairs short programs. Each year one of the three groups will be used. Junior skates take note in planning your short programs, this proposal is likely to pass. The groups for the 1996/97 season would be as follows:
double axel
double or triple Lutz
double with double or double with triple combination jump
flying camel spin
sit spin with one change of foot
spin combination with one change of foot and at least one change of position
two step sequences of a different nature
single or double axel
double Lutz
double with double or double with triple combination jump
flying camel spin
layback or sideways leaning spin
spin combination with one change of foot and at least one change of position
spiral step sequence
step sequence

The addition of an element of free choice to the short programs is also proposed.

The prohibition of retrogressions in short program step sequences is proposed.

In the pairs short programs the elimination of the side by side jump is proposed, to be replaced with a double or triple throw.

It is proposed to include in the well balanced program rules that at least one combination jump is required, but not more than three. This would force skaters to do at least one, but prohibit them from tacking a double toe on the back of every jump they try. For juniors it is proposed to limit the number of double jumps to force more variety in junior free skating programs (the number of double jumps is currently unrestricted by the rules).

Other proposals affecting the well balanced program rules:
for spins to count 5 revs minimum on solo spins, 7 revs for spin combinations.
one or two throws in pairs programs (throws no longer optional).
only one solo jump in pairs programs.
one pair spin.
a second death spiral or another different pivot movement.

Some proposals affecting deductions:
0.1-0.2 in the short program when vocal music is used.
0.1-0.2 in the presentation mark for vocal music in the free skating program
0.2 in both free skating marks if the number of falls exceeds three.

Some proposals affecting the scoring.
Judges to decide on their marks and then to award an ordinal, which would be the score reported using a method similar to that used in judging ballroom dancing. This is unlikely to pass. The U.S. will oppose this proposal.
Return to the use of average mark instead of the current median mark. The U.S. will oppose this proposal.
Majority placement for each performance to be posted with the marks. Reading of the marks to be optional. An alternate proposal to post only the ordinals to the public.
Short program, free skating program, and final results to be posed on the scoreboard during the free skating portions of an event.

Eliminate posting of the judges' nationalities on the scoreboard.

Introductory steps in dance no longer to be restricted to 7, but limited by duration of the introductory phrasing of the music.

Rule restricting dance lifts to be made gender non-specific (currently in dance lifts the man must lift the lady, not vice versa).

Spins up to 5 revs to be permitted in dance.

The creation of an Interpretive Dance program is proposed, 3.5 minutes in duration. This program may be included in competitions, replacing the free dance.

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