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Accountability in figure skating a victim of judging reforms

Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S., middle, with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, left, and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia show off their flags and flowers in Sochi on Monday.

Darron Cummings/AP

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If the International Skating Union wonders why it's always dogged by judging controversies, it's because it's such an easy target.

When collusion was exposed at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and the ISU finally reformed its judging, it adopted a system in which the judges' scores are anonymous – to prevent pressure on individual officials by dubious outside influences.

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That anonymity, however, also protects judges from being accountable for marks that, in the ice dance competition at the 2014 Sochi Games, were curious at best.

According to the ISU's website, this is how scores are compiled: "There will be a panel of nine judges per segment. The scores of these nine judges will form the result. Out of these nine scores, the highest and lowest score of each element or program component are ignored and the average will be taken from the remainder, generating the trimmed mean [average score]."

Another reason to be skeptical of ISU reforms is the choice of judges on Olympic panels. Irina Nechkina, for instance, is listed as being from Azerbaijan, but she's a Russian who once was a judge for the Soviet Union. She was dumped for incompetence from the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, but was sufficiently rehabilitated to get the plum Olympic assignments in 2010 and 2014.

Then there's Katalin Alpern, a Hungarian who's listed as being from Israel and who draws a lot of ISU assignments. She's a referee on the ice dance panel in Sochi. More than a decade ago, she was accused of trying to influence other judges' scores.

Including Alpern, there were five Eastern Europeans on the 2014 panel. If a deal was struck to trade favourable marks in the ice dance and team competitions (an allegation made prior to the Games in a report by French newspaper, L'Équipe), and the Eastern European judges voted as a bloc, they'd be able to affect the results even after the high and low scores get tossed.

However, because the judges' scores are secret, no one outside the ISU can know if that's in fact what happened.

The Sochi Games ice dance panel included:

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Katalin Alpern, referee, Israel (from Hungary). Was technical controller on 2010 Vancouver Games panel that awarded ice dance gold to Canadians Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue; referee on Sochi team competition panel.

Anastassia Makarova, judge, Ukraine, also on team competition panel. Her mother was a member of the ice dancing technical committee of the ISU.

Christopher Buchanan, judge, Britain, on team competition panel.

Shawn Rettstatt, judge, United States, on team competition panel.

Laimute Krauziene, judge, Lithuania.

Rossella Ceccattini, judge, Italy, on team competition panel.

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Julia Andreeva, judge, Russia, on team competition panel.

Jodi Abbott, judge, Canada, was also on 2010 Games panel. She judged competitions while still a member of Skate Canada's board of directors.

Irina Nechkina, judge,Azerbaijan.

Tomie Fukudome, judge, Japan, on team competition panel.

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