NOTE: The original version of this issue of "The Portlandian" 
that was sent out to subscribers and published on usenet 
incorrectly stated that skating judge Yuri Balkov was Russian. He 
is actually Ukranian. This error has been corrected in the 
version below.



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The Portlandian, the Internet's premier source of Tonya News

February 16, 2002 Edition - Bumper Olympic corruption edition
(C) 2002 Portland Ice Skating Society
http://www.geocities.com/portice
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Tonight, a rarity in the Portlandian: instead of focusing on 
Tonya, we're going to devote most of this issue to what many 
people are calling the biggest scandal to hit skating since 1994. 
We're taking this rare step because we see it as a perfect 
example of the rank hypocrisy and double standards that permeate 
the sport, and of which Tonya is the biggest victim.


D.C. AREA TONYAPHILE OFFERS TONYA HELP

Late in January a court hearing was held at which a judge ordered 
Tonya out of her home for failing to pay $4530 in rent and other 
fees. Unfortunately, Tonya turned up to the hearing late due to 
car trouble, so it appears likely that this was a default 
judgement and that once again Tonya did not have a chance for her 
version of events to be heard by the court. Tonya later said that 
she had intended to pay the rent but had only recently returned 
from an exhibition in France and had only just been paid (at this 
stage we don't know much about this: we had been tipped off by a 
source last month to a possible French skating engagement but 
were asked to keep things quiet until it was confirmed).

As usual, Tonya's side of things has been ignored. Our sources 
also tell us that the house Tonya was living in was a lemon and 
that she had had nothing but trouble with it since moving in.

However, there is some good news: a couple of days after the 
hearing the Special Duties Section was contacted by someone from 
the D.C. area who has offered to give Tonya some financial 
assistance until she is solvent. This person, who wishes to 
remain anonymous, says:

   I heard about the way the news media is digging their heels in 
   on Tonya Harding because of her recent eviction from her 
   apartment. Rather than gloating at her misfortune, my 
   impression is that some people can be very cruel when others 
   suffer personal problems. I am a businessman in the 
   Washington, D.C. area who also has known hard times in 
   previous years. 

So hopefully Tonya will not have to camp out with her dog in her 
Corvette as she feared. We offer our sincere thanks to this 
person who has come to Tonya's aid in her hour of need.

Since then we have also received several other offers that we 
have passed on to Tonya's management, including a request to use 
a Tonya film clip in a commercial and an offer of a movie deal. 
We hope to be able to report more in an upcoming issue.

In other news, The "Globe" schlockloid recently reported that 
Tonya was in secret negotiations with a cable TV channel to do 
commentary for the Winter Olympics. It also claims Tonya recently 
turned down "big bucks" to step into a boxing ring with other 
"scandalous stars" and repeats the now discredited rumor about 
the topless ice show. We don't have any idea at this stage 
whether either the TV commentary or boxing stories are true, but 
given that the "Globe" was the same publication that ran forged 
photographs of Tonya's boyfriend after the "hubcap incident" 
their credibilty must be regarded with extreme skepticism.


TONYA ON TV

January saw the screening of a new Tonya-related special on ESPN, 
a half hour program entitled "Sportscenter Flashbacks: Kerrigan 
and Harding". ESPN has a feature on it at their site:

http://espn.go.com/classic/s/sc_flashback_kerrigan_harding.html

Unfortunately, while as the program was new, the contents 
weren't, being, as its title suggests, a rehash of the events of 
1994 reheated in time for the Olympics. One of our readers tells 
us that about 75% of it was clips from an interview with 
Christine Brennan, always a bad sign in a Tonya documentary.

Tonya was also on Entertainment This Weekend (Feb 09-10). It 
featured a sit down interview with Tonya. David House caught part 
of it and if anyone has a tape of it that they would like to 
donate, please send an e-mail to David using the form at:
 
http://www.tonyaharding.org/contact.html


YAHOO! TONYA FAN CLUB MOVES TO NEW LOCATION

Several months ago we reported about how a Tonyaphile had 
established a fan club on Yahoo! clubs.

Unfortunately, due to some unexplained technical problem the club 
founder was no longer able to log in as administrator and 
moderate the club's message board. This resulted in the message 
board rapidly filling up with postings from juvenile anti-Tonya 
morons which couldn't be deleted.

Accordingly, the founder has now started a new club (the old one 
has now been deleted by Yahoo!). The new URL is:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TMHFC/

You can also subscribe to the club's messages by e-mail - traffic 
is fairly low (about half a dozen postings per month), and the 
messages now sensible, so this may be the easiest way.


WHEATIES BOX FOLLOWUP

A couple of issues ago we showed a Wheaties box with Tonya on the 
cover. Since then a second one of these has surfaced on e-Bay, 
this one located in Minnesota (the signature is different from 
the one on tonyaharding.org, so we know it's a different one). 
Apparently these were actually made by a fan, not by General 
Mills as prototypes for a real Wheaties box as we originally 
assumed, and autographed by Tonya sometime in the '90's. Very 
professional looking anyway. And unfortunately about as close as 
you'll ever get to the real thing.


THE GREAT SKATING SWINDLE

The Olympics are now under way, but the figure skating had barely 
begun before being rocked by a massive scandal that many seasoned 
observers are saying is the biggest to hit the sport since the 
Tonya & Nancy incident of '94.

It's no surprise, of course, that it involves judging, an aspect 
of the sport that has long had its share of controversy. Ice-
dance judging, for instance, has been widely recognized for years 
as being as crooked as a crankshaft (see the story of Jean Senft, 
below). But now the rot appears to have spread to pairs, with the 
ludicrous decision to award the Pairs gold medal to the Russian 
team of Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sukharulidze, despite their 
long program containing several errors that were glaringly 
obvious to even the untrained eye, over the flawless performance 
of Canadians Salé & Pelletier. The decision has provoked 
monstrous outrage all across North America, with the main 
internet skating newsgroup rec.sport.skating.ice.figure receiving 
an average of almost a thousand postings a day (which has to be a 
record), almost all on this topic. Reports are that the ISU's 
discussion board server crashed under the load as thousands of 
angry skating fans logged on to vent their displeasure. Anger has 
been further inflamed as evidence has emerged to back up 
suspicions of a jackup, with revelations that the French judge 
Marie Reine Le Gougne was pressured into doing a deal to enhance 
the chances of the French ice-dance team (there is no French 
judge on the ice-dance panel).

Nor is it just casual fans watching at home on television who are 
upset: numerous skating experts from all areas and disciplines 
are appalled at this manifest & blatant corruption. To get some 
idea of just how bad this decision is regarded, here are just 
some of the quotes we've found:

   - NBC commentator Sandra Bezic: "the judges should hang their 
heads in shame!". Bezic also said she was embarassed for her 
sport tonight. "As the marks came up, I was completely shocked 
and disillusioned by the whole thing".

   - Scott Hamilton, an Olympic gold-medal winner, added that 
when he saw the 5-4 split among the judges, "I had a hard time 
believing it." Hamilton said on NBC that he examined whether he 
was correct in his original assessment, and even called some 
people whom he respected. He said he has come to the conclusion 
that he was correct and that something has to be done about this.

   - Barbara Underhill is quoted in the Toronto Globe & Mail as 
saying the dance judging cartel has already decided that 
Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz will be out of the 
medals.

   - Underhill's skating partner Paul Martini described it as 
"robbery". 

   - Frank Carroll, a longtime coach of elite skaters, said today 
that he could now understand why critics question the credibility 
of figure skating. "You see the panel of judges and say: Why? 
Why? Why?" he told the New York Times. "This is the worst thing 
that's happened in a long time in figure skating," Carroll also 
told the Associated Press. He also pointed to the French judge as 
a key player in what he also believes is a deal-making group.

   - BBC commentator Robin Cousins, the 1980 Olympic men's 
champion, said Ms. Le Gougne's decision to place the Russians 
ahead of Salé and Pelletier was almost certainly connected with 
the ice-dance event.

   - Mark Lund, editor of International Figure Skating magazine, 
was quoted on CNN as saying that the fix was on and that the 
French judge worked out a deal to give the pairs to Russia in 
exchange for the French dancers win.

   - "When that decision came in, I didn't want to judge again," 
said Sally Rehorick, head of mission of the Canadian Olympic 
Association and a judge for 25 years. Quoted by the New York 
Times, she said "I don't know whether it was embarrassment; I was 
horrified. As a judge you go in and you want things to be fair. 
When Jamie and David finished skating I thought: 'Oh, that's 
easy. They made it easy.' "

   - "The countries play games," said Judy Blumberg, a former 
Olympian and three-time bronze medalist at the world 
championships in the mid-1980's who was also quoted by the Times. 
"The Canadian team flat-out won. It's a shame."

   - In an article entitled "Judgment on the judging in figure 
skating: more rotten than ever", E.M. Swift (who authored a long 
article on Tonya in Sports Illustrated ten years ago) described 
it as "the worst decision I've seen in my 18 years covering 
figure skating."

   - According to Swift, two-time gold medalist Katarina Witt was 
nearly in tears at the injustice. "Halfway through Salé and 
Pelletier's program, I knew I was watching the gold medalists," 
Witt said. "It was the performance of their lives. It's what you 
train for all those years, to be in perfect harmony with 
yourselves, your music, the program and the audience."

   - Swift also spoke to Tai Babilonia; she and Randy Gardner 
were the last U.S. pair to win a world championship, in 1979. 
"It's what I hate about our sport," she said. "This sort of thing 
has been going on for years with the Russians, and you can quote 
me."

   - Randy Gardner was interviewed on CNN/Sports Illustrated 
channel. (He and Babilonia attended the Pairs long program). He 
said he would really like to know what the judges were looking 
for, "because, obviously, we missed something." He added that 
this was "boggling my mind."

   - And last (but definitely not least), Christine Brennan of 
USA Today, wrote that Monday's decision was the worst she'd seen 
in 14 years covering figure skating and, calling for a full 
investigation, all but said that the judging was rigged. Brennan 
also declared on ESPN's "Sportscenter" program that she thought 
this entire scandal may actually be BIGGER than Tonya & Nancy.

As usual, ISU President and "Lord of The Rinks" Ottavio Cinquanta 
has mishandled the whole deal in his typical bungling and inept 
way, initially announcing that although the ISU would investigate 
the judging, it wouldn't actually hold a meeting until February 
18th, thereby allowing this cankerous sore to continue to fester 
for almost a whole week. Then, yesterday (no doubt under severe 
pressure from the IOC), he suddenly changed his mind and 
announced that an additional set of gold medals would be awarded 
to the Canadians, and that the French judge would be suspended. 
His belated & confused reaction shows this guy's phone is 
definitely off the hook: the IOC has previously warned the ISU to 
clean up its act, and the IOC committee in charge of scaling down 
the Olympics is headed by a Canadian, Dick Pound, who has also 
made similar noises. Even SAMARANCH was apparently known to be 
dissatisfied about the level of sleaze in the sport - and if 
someone as soft on corruption as he is was concerned, things must 
be pretty bad.

While as Cinquanta's decision corrects the immediate injustice 
and will likely take the heat off the ISU from the public, it 
does nothing to solve the long term problem of corrupt judging, 
an issue that has plagued the sport for years. Given that new IOC 
President Jacques Rogge is eager to show that he's a new broom 
doing a clean sweep, what better way to start than to kick 
skating out of the Olympics altogether? Well, we've got a better 
idea: kick ice-dancing out of the Olympics instead.

Ice-dance isn't a sport - it's a circus. It's the major source of 
corruption in figure-skating and its disease is now infecting 
other disciplines like pairs. Its continued presence in the 
Games is a blot that contaminates this fine sport. Ice-dance 
belongs in ice shows and exhibitions - not in the Olympics as a 
competitive activity. Attempts to turn dance into a "sport" have 
merely resulted in this beautiful and graceful activity becoming 
sodden with corruption, a corruption that's now spreading and 
threatening to contaminate the entire skating world.

Next, he should kick the ISU out of the Olympics, an organization 
that has consistently shown its ineptitude and softness on 
corruption. The ISU are not the only ones who can organize high-
level skating competitions. The IOC could just hire in someone 
from outside like Dick Button or Michael Rosenberg and have them 
put together the Olympic skating contest, or some outfit like IMG 
that has experience in organizing large events. Heck, Vince 
McMahon from the WWF could probably do a better job! The national 
federations would then have a choice: stick with Cinquanta and 
his corrupt goons and become instantly irrelevant, or defect to 
the new organization if they want to stay in the Olympics.

It's time for the IOC to show it's serious about reform, not only 
of itself but of cheating at the Games. It's time for them to 
lance this rancid, puss-filled, cancerous boil on the backside 
of this fine sport by booting the ISU out of the Olympics and 
replacing them with an organization that WILL take action against 
corruption before its too late.


ICE-SKATING JUDGING: AS CROOKED AS A CRANKSHAFT

Let's look at some of the other judging crookery that's been 
going on in figure skating over the years. For instance, ever 
wondered why it is that Russia has been so sucessful in ice-
dancing? There's a simple answer: they cheat.

Throughout the cold war the Eastern Bloc countries regularly 
resorted to skullduggery in order to win Olympic medals, so this 
should come as no surprise. Their athletes guzzled steroids and 
other performance-enhancing drugs for breakfast the way other 
people eat cornflakes. But of course, steroids aren't much use in 
ice-dance (otherwise we'd have been watching Torvill & 
Schwarzenegger win gold in '84 instead of Torvill & Dean), so the 
Russians/Soviets have resorted to other more sophisticated 
methods, such as rigging the judging in order to get the results 
they desire.

First there's the phenomenon known as "bloc voting". History 
books tell us that the Berlin wall fell in 1989 and that that 
Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union over ten years ago. 
Unfortunately, this hasn't yet percolated through into the figure 
skating world where the cold war is alive and well and judges 
from the old "Soviet bloc" countries routinely side together in 
order to shaft skaters from the west, particularly Canada and the 
U.S. Judges from western Europe are also known to join in too.

Then there's the story of Jean Senft, someone who might best be 
described as the Frank Serpico of figure skating. Many people may 
be familiar with the story of Serpico, a courageous New York city 
police officer in the late 60's & early 70's who blew the whistle 
on departmental corruption and was later portrayed by Al Pacino 
in Sidney Lumet's gripping 1973 film of the same name. Skating 
has its own version of Serpico in the form of Senft, a Canadian 
skating judge who exposed corruption in ice dancing at the 1998 
Nagano Olympics.

As far back as the Lillehammer Olympics Senft regularly received 
phone calls from the Russian and Belarus judges lobbying on 
behalf of their skaters. At the 1997 NHK trophy in Nagano, Senft 
found out that the Russian judge had contacted three other judges 
in an attempt to rig the results ahead of the event. Senft 
approached the referee, but he claimed he could do nothing 
without proof. She then drafted a letter outlining her concerns, 
but the other judges refused to sign it, fearful of a backlash 
from their own skaters and federations. At the Grand Prix final 
in Munich in December that year, further judging discrepancies 
were apparent with Russians Evgeni Platov and Oksana (now Pasha) 
Grishuk being ranked first by five judges (including those from 
Italy, France, Russia and the Ukraine) despite a fall - a classic 
case of European bloc voting. Senft and the U.S. judge put them 
second.

By the time of the Nagano Olympics in February 1998, Senft had 
had enough of this blatant chicanery and the reluctance of 
officials to do anything serious about it. The last straw came 
when Senft saw more evidence of bloc voting during the Compulsory 
Dance segment that was denying the Canadians a place. When a 
Ukranian judge, Yuri Balkov, phoned her at her hotel a few days 
later, she was ready with a tape recorder. According to the 
Vancouver Sun, the conversation went like this:

   Balkov: "My opinion -- three Canada, four Averbuch (Russia), 
            five French. You understand me?"

   Senft:  "Yes."

   Balkov: "And same opinion Lithuanian and Czech" (implying he             
            had already spoken to those judges).

At this point, she turned off the tape recorder. But she told the 
CBC's "Fifth Estate" TV program that Balkov persisted, asking her 
to put the Ukrainian couple in eighth place in return for putting 
the Canadians third. Senft refused to go along with the plan. 
Once again the Canadians got screwed, coming in fourth. The 
Russians finished first.

Upon her return to Canada, Senft spilled the beans about what was 
going on to Skate Canada Director-General David Dore, including 
the fact she had taped evidence of wrongdoing. Dore's response to 
the news his team had been ripped off? "I was advised to hold 
onto them, not to do anything with them, that I had rocked the 
boat enough with my comments to the press," she told "Fifth 
Estate".

Serpico received a bullet in the back from one of his colleagues 
as payment for his whistleblowing. The skating world was only 
slightly kinder to Jean Senft: she was suspended from judging for 
six months, almost half as long as the punishment ultimately 
dished out to the crooks she exposed. You see, because Senft was 
the only judge who actually judged the event fairly and on its 
merits, her marks for the Canadian team were therefore way above 
those of the other judges. This resulted in her being accused of 
"national bias" and disqualified from judging. Skate Canada gave 
Senft only token support, merely writing a letter saying she had 
been a good judge in Canada. Senft was left to pay her own legal 
bills in her battle with the ISU. Skate Canada has since 
rewritten its "code of ethics" to ensure this sort of 
embarassment never happens again: judges are now effectively 
barred from speaking out. And as for Balkov? Well, his suspension 
has since expired and he's going to be one of the judges 
adjudicating the Olympic ice dancing on Monday - the very event 
that's allegedly going to be rigged as France's payback for their 
perfidy in the pairs! 

You'd think that after this shambles ice skating would have 
learned its lesson and cleaned up its act. At the very least 
you'd think they'd have the brains to be more discreet when doing 
these kinds of scams in the future. But no! Just a year later 
another scandal hit when two pairs judges at the 1999 Worlds were 
videotaped exchanging secret signals using their feet (at least 
the dance judges had enough sense to organize things in 
advance). Once again it was the Canucks who exposed the swindle - 
it was Canadian station CTV that aired the footage. The judges in 
question (a Russian & a Ukrainian, surprise, surprise) were 
suspended by the ISU for 2 and 3 years respectively, but these 
penalties were later halved by the ISU after pressure from the 
Russians.

And this is the same sport that decided to ban Tonya for life on 
much less evidence.


THE ITALIAN JOB

The Grand Prix Final in Kitchener, Ontario, in December last year 
saw more fiddling of a different kind. This time something 
radical happened: the dance judges actually decided to judge the 
skating honestly. This wasn't good enough, however, for "Speedy" 
Cinquanta, who tried to intimidate the judges after their honesty 
resulted in his prized Italian team being dumped down to fourth 
place (the fact they were, in the words of one long-serving 
European skating official, "God-awful", was why). After a brief 
consultation with Speedy, the Russian referee declared that the 
results had "set ice dancing back fifteen years" and demanded the 
five judges responsible for the Italian's low placement write 
"please explain" letters. More evidence of something fishy going 
on emerged when the "Globe & Mail" managed to obtain the marks of 
the substitute judge (the only Russian on the panel) that showed 
he had ranked the Italians first. The only other judge to do so 
was - wait for it - the Italian.

And now the clincher: the same Russian who refereed this event 
has been picked by Speedy to referee the controversial Olympic 
dance event!

Can somebody spell JACK-UP?

Why are we not too optimistic about Speedy cleaning up skating?

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VISIT THESE GREAT TONYA WEB SITES:

PortIce - http://www.geocities.com/portice
David House - http://www.tonyaharding.org
Charlie Main - http://www.charliesweb.com/tonya/tonya.html
Puppetboy - http://www.puppetland.com/mirrortony2.html
Valerie Smith - http://www.olywa.net/radu/valerie/LilHam.html
Swan Lake - http://members.tripod.com/~TonyaHarding/index.html
Blades of Gold - http://members.tripod.com/tmhfan/index.html
Pegasus Times - http://www.pegasustimes.com/harding/
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