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
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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
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
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:
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:
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:
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
- Underhill's skating partner Paul Martini described it as
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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?"
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
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
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
Can somebody spell JACK-UP?
Why are we not too optimistic about Speedy cleaning up skating?
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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