Host City: Salt Lake City, United States
Venue(s): Salt Lake Ice Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
Date Started: February 9, 2002
Date Finished: February 11, 2002
Format: The pairs were ranked on Ordinal Placement for each section of the competition, based on judges' points, with final placement for each section determined by Majority Placements. The tiebreaker for the Original Program was the Required Elements score, while the tiebreaker for the Free Skating was the Technical Merit score. Thus, if a pair was ranked first by a majority of the judges, that skater was placed first overall for that section. Ties were broken by a Subsequent Majority rule. The tiebreakers were then, in order, 1) Number of Majority Placements, 2) Total Ordinals of Majority, 3) Total Ordinals. Final placement was determined by factored placements. The placement for the Original Program was factored by 0.5 (33.3%), and the placement for Free Skating was factored by 1.0 (66.7%). The sums of the factored placements were then used to determine final placement, with the Free Skating being the tiebreaker.
The best pair in the last year had been Canada’s [Jamie Salé] and [David Pelletier]. They had won the 2005 World title, and had a nine-event winning streak coming into Salt Lake, including three victories over [Yelena Berezhnaya] and [Anton Sikharulidze], the 1998 silver medalists and World Champions in 1998-99. In the short program, there was little to choose between them until the end, when Salé slipped and fell during their final pose, pulling down her partner with her. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were given seven first place votes to two for the Canadians. They skated first in the free program and performed well. But their technical scores of 5.7 and 5.8 gave plenty of room for Salé and Pelletier. The Russians artistic scores were almost all 5.9. Salé and Pelletier performed a flawless routine to the theme from Love Story, and the audience seemed convinced that they were the champions. All their scores, technical and artistic, were 5.8s and 5.9s. But then the score came on the screens, and Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze had won, five first-place votes to four for the Canadians. The Canadian Olympic Association demanded an investigation.
The five judges who voted for the Russians were from Russia, China, Poland, the Ukraine, and France. The French judge was Marie-Reine Le Gougne and speculation focused on her. A few days later, it was found that Le Gougne had told British referee [Sally-Anne Stapleford] that she had been pressured to vote for the Russians, in exchange for Russians judges favoring the French ice dance team. She later retracted this claim but the damage had been done. Four days after the competition ended, IOC President [Jacques Rogge] held a press conference in conjunction with the International Skating Union (ISU) and announced that it was decided to place both pairs joint first, and award two sets of gold medals. Le Gougne was suspended from figure skating judging for three years. It should be noted that even without Le Gougne’s altered scores, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze would have won the event, as figure skating experts noted their great speed and higher technical difficulty during the long program.
In July 2002, Uzbeki mafia chieftain Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov was arrested at his home in Italy. He had been investigated by the United States FBI for years for links to drug trafficking and illegal arms sales. Wiretaps had shown he was closely connected to many top Russian athletes, among them [Marina Anissina], the Russian-born ice dancer who competed for France, as well as several Russian tennis players. Tokhtakhunov was imprisoned in Italy for a year, but was never extradited to the United States, and eventually returned to Russia. Anissina denied any involvement or knowledge in the schemes connected to the judging scandal.
The scandal led to major changes in the sport of figure skating. The entire judging system, for over a century based on majority placements, was scrapped in favor of a points system, in which skaters accumulated points to determine their final score, rather than starting with a perfect 6.0 and seeing points deducted for errors. The nine judge system was jettisoned in favor of 12 judges, with only nine scores to be selected at random, and the nine selected judges were not revealed. Thus the new system was actually less transparent. What the ISU did not count on was that the scandals, the controversies, the perfect 6.0s, and the old system, was part of the intrigue and interest in figure skating. Since television had discovered figure skating in the 1960s, it had been the perfect winter sport. And with the Hardigan scandal in the 1994 women’s event, figure skating had taken off, and been a boom sport. But after 2002, its popularity dropped precipitously, and many people felt the new scoring system, which nobody could understand or follow, was part of the problem. Through 2008, the sport has not yet really recovered in the United States and Europe, although Asian success has led to the sport becoming very popular there.