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Thread: "The judges"

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    "The judges"

    I'm always a little amused when I read comments about "the judges," as if they are some kind of group of people who all know one another and conspire for or against competitors.

    Yes, I'm aware that, especially in the past, there have been issues with shady judging. But really, haven't those occurrences been relatively rare? I believe that most judges are honest people who merely want to do their part for the sport. Many international judges don't even speak a common language. If most big competitions were fixed or based solely on reputation, Michelle Kwan would have won OGM in 1998 (no one was particularly politicking for Tara that year); Irina or Michelle would have won OGM over Sarah Hughes (Sarah was a podium contender but hardly an OGM favorite); Kurt Browning would have been awarded an Olympic medal of some sort, regardless of how he skated; the Carruthers would have been kept off the podium, etc., etc., etc.

    So, do most of you think that competitions are pre-judged/rigged and that there is major conspiracy going on behind the scenes? (For the record, I think it is very rare.)
    "I hit him with my shoes... if he had given me the medal like I told him to, I wouldn't have had to hit him!" -- 8-year-old Rhoda Penmark in "The Bad Seed"

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    No, I don't think that they are.. now. I think that under the 6.0 system politics/rigging was much more prevalent, especially in ice dance. I think ice dance was based 50% on politics and 50% on skill, really, back then. I think there are some unfair judging decisions made these days but these aren't purposeful.. judges may be letting their own subjective opinions influence their marks too much (ie. of Chan's skating) but they are not CONSPIRING.. and most seemingly unfair results are because of flaws within the system, not because the judges really want to hold a particular person up. There is no way that they can do all the math that would be involved in the new system to make a particular person win, unless they're math geniuses, which I doubt a lot of them are.

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    I think in the late 90s and early 2000s, when ice dance judging resembled a popularity contest and sometimes a laughingstock, famous critics worried that the Russian speaking judges-- when a panel might have RUS, BLR, UKR, ISR and even AZE on it together -- were conspiring. This suspicion has not completely gone away among some fans I'm sure.
    Last edited by TheIronLady; 05-20-2013 at 08:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skateboy View Post
    I'm always a little amused when I read comments about "the judges," as if they are some kind of group of people who all know one another and conspire for or against competitors.

    Yes, I'm aware that, especially in the past, there have been issues with shady judging. But really, haven't those occurrences been relatively rare? I believe that most judges are honest people who merely want to do their part for the sport. Many international judges don't even speak a common language. If most big competitions were fixed or based solely on reputation, Michelle Kwan would have won OGM in 1998 (no one was particularly politicking for Tara that year); Irina or Michelle would have won OGM over Sarah Hughes (Sarah was a podium contender but hardly an OGM favorite); Kurt Browning would have been awarded an Olympic medal of some sort, regardless of how he skated; the Carruthers would have been kept off the podium, etc., etc., etc.

    So, do most of you think that competitions are pre-judged/rigged and that there is major conspiracy going on behind the scenes? (For the record, I think it is very rare.)
    ^^ Hmmm, a topic for a thorough investigation and a book perhaps when it comes to figure skating and ISU judging. Indeed most judges in and of themselves are likely fine people, perhaps with a bit of self-importance coupled with a desire to offend neither their fed nor the ISU in the process of attempting to "fairly" score performances.

    Just because there is quite often a sense of unfairness in the judging does not mean it's due to any elaborate fixing scheme or "conspiracy" as is often the language and assumption bandied about. Certainly over the history of figure skating there are known scandals associated with quid pro quo politicking and toe-tapping. The scandalous goings-on that Frank Carroll described as happening during the ladies event practices at Lake Placid Olympics 1980 are quite .

    Most judges probably desire to be honest in doing their jobs well but are hampered from the beginning by fed and ISU politics and a judging system which is quite difficult for them to competently, consistently and fairly apply. That goes for both 6.0 and CoP/ IJS. There have been a number of interesting suggestions offered in other threads regarding possible ways to improve the judging system. Some of the suggestions I feel have merit include further educating the judges, eliminating anonymous judging (IMO the anonymity was instituted solely to protect the judges due to the inherent political nature of the sport), simplifying the scoring system, and bringing in judges from the world of dance who understand choreography and performance to complement those on the judging panel who understand more about the technical aspects of figure skating.

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    The anonymous judging had nothing to do with protecting judges. It was to protect the ISU from scandal, and to protect the sport from being blacklisted by the IOC.

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    I think "the judges" is skatings version of the mythical "they". However, I think politics are involved when multiple skaters skate equally well either in the same way or in vastly different ways that are none the less equal.

    I must say there are times when I know "the judges" got it right. For example, Jr. Worlds had this reputation as a gathering place for judges, coaches, and skating mommies and daddies to get together and choose a champion, then let the skaters skate. However, Rudy Galindo won because he skated well ... end of story ... without bff judges, legendary coaches, or a skating mommy working the room in her fur coat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    I think politics are involved when multiple skaters skate equally well either in the same way or in vastly different ways that are none the less equal.
    agree on this part.
    This is what I have felt for a long time ...
    Last edited by karlon; 05-20-2013 at 11:23 AM.

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    ^^ Makes sense to me.


    Quote Originally Posted by TheIronLady View Post
    The anonymous judging had nothing to do with protecting judges. It was to protect the ISU from scandal, and to protect the sport from being blacklisted by the IOC.
    Ah well, in terms of the intent to "protect," its essentially all one and the same, eh? Protect the ISU judges from public knowledge of their scoring identities/ countries of origin and thereby make it impossible for any judges to be singled out, thus blocking any potential scandal from being explored or exposed. Anonymity is an umbrella which protects the judges while preventing headaches and saving face for the ISU. In 2002, the IOC no doubt warned the ISU in no uncertain terms to "fix" the problem quickly and efficiently by whatever means necessary or risk being thrown out as an Olympic sport. That's going a bit above and beyond the terminology of "blacklisting," IMHO.

    BTW, skateboy, during an earlier time, I'm pretty sure many of the European judges definitely "spoke the same language." Even today, many Europeans speak several languages, but Europe is no longer where most of the top figure skating talent hails from, so the makeup of judging panels is perhaps broader than for example the situation at 1980 Lake Placid Olympics when there were according to Frank Carroll a majority of judges on the ladies' event judging panel who were German-speaking and/ or who had ties to Germany, or who were friendly with Carlo Fassi who coached the eventual gold medal winner from East Germany.

    In any case, both Chuck Foster and Frank Carroll recently spoke (in respective TSL interviews) about the family-like camaraderie that existed among European judges and top European skaters in the good old bad old days. Since the sport has grown globally, most likely the nature of politicking has changed with it. And as well, it is highly likely that post-2002 Salt Lake City scandal, the overt quid pro quo scoring that reportedly happened at a number of high profile events, is no longer occurring, at least not in the same way. IOW, it would be naive to believe that politicking influence does not have any effect on the judging but hopefully the skaters' actual performances have more effect these days. The nature of the IJS scoring system certainly allows a lot of room for manipulation of the marks, which again doesn't necessarily equate to outright cheating but often equates to inconsistent application of the rules and sometimes unfairness.

    Clearly there are and have always been honest judges who have done their best to perform their jobs ethically and according to the rules in effect. Clearly there has been and will probably always be politics and subjectivity involved in figure skating. The extent and nature of bloc-judging and politicking known to have occurred in figure skating, not to mention some of the more notorious judging scandals, is a book series begging to be written.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aftershocks
    is a book series begging to be written.
    You clearly enjoy writing. Why don't you write a book about it?
    Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them. – Publilius Syrus

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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    I think "the judges" is skatings version of the mythical "they". However, I think politics are involved when multiple skaters skate equally well either in the same way or in vastly different ways that are none the less equal.
    I agree completely. Another factor might be the reputation and constancy of a skater throughout the season. If a skater had a very good season so far, judges might be influenced by that. Additionally, the nationality of the judge might play a role. I think a judge from the same country as a skater may give them a little edge over the others. That is why I hope there will be no judges from the top contender's country, which is impossible, I kow!

    A good example, I think, are Szolkowy and Savchenko: they both were out for some time last season with an injury and illness while the Russian team of Volosozhar and Trankov built quite a reputation. In the end the Russian team won the World title. The years before the German won because of their reputation and the good seasons they had without any promotion of the German federation (really, they do nothing for them).

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    Quote Originally Posted by spikydurian View Post
    You clearly enjoy writing. Why don't you write a book about it?
    Yeah, if I had the inside contacts, the time, the inclination and the resources, perhaps. There are lots of unwritten stories in figure skating in any case. Fortunately, the sport/ art is about way much more than the judges and the judging, which is perhaps the major reason why figure skating continues to have appeal for die-hard fans.

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    Last edited by karlon; 05-20-2013 at 12:05 PM.

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    It has occasionally been suggested, at least since the 1990s, that one way to address the bias problem would be to have the ISU hire a professional corps of judges directly, without going through national federations.

    I'm trying to imagine how this might work:

    Would-be international judges apply directly to the ISU -- not through national federations. They don't even need to belong to a national federation. They have to demonstrate a sufficient level of skating knowledge to be accepted into the program. Of course national-level judging experience would be one way to demonstrate that. Written exams would also be required.

    After acceptance, judges are trained -- in on-site seminars held three or four places around the world each year, and with written materials and video seminars as well. Probably this training would be at the prospective judge's own expense, but the ISU would offer hardship grants for prospective judges who demonstrate good initial knowledge but who do not have sufficient personal funds and/or who live far from the location of any of the seminars.

    Some national federations would probably also offer travel grants to members who want to become international judges. This is in advance of the appointment, so it's not something they could hold over a judge's head once they become international judges.

    The seminars might be held in conjunction with ISU championships or other large events, so that much of the training would involve trial judging real competitions as well as classroom training.

    At the end of the training, a new judge can be certified and placed on the ISU's roster of International judges, to be listed alphabetically by name, no national affiliation. (Their place of residence would be listed though, to help in assigning judges to nearby competitions.)

    After a certain level of experience, International judges could apply/be recommended for promotion to ISU/Championship judge, perhaps with additional training before certification to that level.

    Individual judges indicate their availability to judge throughout the year.

    For ISU Championships and senior Grand Prix events, the ISU selects judges from the Championship Judges pool. So this pool would need to be large enough to cover all those events but not so large that some judges at that level get no assignments if they indicate they're available for several.

    For JGP events, all judges would be chosen from International pool.

    In addition to travel expenses and housing and food at the competition site, the ISU would also pay these judges a salary of some sort based on the amount of actual judging that they do, perhaps with different rates for different levels of competition or different levels of experience.

    There should probably be some rule or guideline to require or encourage the ISU to choose judges from different parts of the world and not those who are cheapest to get to the competition venue. But there would be no official limit on number of judges from any given country, since they don't represent the countries. So, e.g., a competition held in Asia would likely hire more judges based in Asia and the rest of the Pacific rim. A competition based in Europe would hire more judges based in Europe. Etc.

    For other international events, including designated senior Bs, the local organizing committee would hire the judges. Maybe for designated events that count toward world rankings (or minimum scores, which are determined more by tech panel calls anyway), all or a majority of the judges would need to be professional judges, either International or Championship.

    So a B event or domestic event held during the busy season for ISU events could have a hard time getting enough professional judges and have to rely more on local judges without international credentials, whereas at other times of year the professional judges would more likely be available and want to judge at local events.

    But would the local or lesser international events have to pay salaries to those professional international judges, even though they just pay travel expenses and room and board for their non-international volunteer judges?

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    Anyone that believes there are no (or less) politics in the IJS cmpared with the 6.0 system, is turning a blind eye/deaf ear. Actually under IJS the judges are not even held accountable; they can hide. Their names and countries are not displayed. At least in the 6.0 we knew what countries they represented and sometimes even saw their faces (e.g. the French judge that gave K&P 5.5 for their 1992 Oly LP). There have been plenty of controversies under the IJS, but we don't have a punching bag like the 6.0 system provided.

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    I don't tend to think there are judging deals made today, certainly not like there were back in the Cold War days. Then you had to deal with "block judging": the Communist countries versus the Free World nations. Many close calls were made by which block had the majority of judges.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    Anyone that believes there are no (or less) politics in the IJS cmpared with the 6.0 system, is turning a blind eye/deaf ear. Actually under IJS the judges are not even held accountable; they can hide. Their names and countries are not displayed. At least in the 6.0 we knew what countries they represented and sometimes even saw their faces (e.g. the French judge that gave K&P 5.5 for their 1992 Oly LP). There have been plenty of controversies under the IJS, but we don't have a punching bag like the 6.0 system provided.
    I don't think you need country names as punch bags these days. Haven't there been Canadian Federation conspiracies flying allover the internet when there was no Canadian judges, none, on the men's judging panel at the time?

    By the way, we do know the judges' names and the countries they come from. But it is not clear which scores were given by which judges. On another thought, why do you want to punch the country the judges belong to?
    Last edited by Eyre; 05-20-2013 at 06:14 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eyre View Post
    I don't think you need country names as punch bags these days. Haven't there been Canadian Federation conspiracies flying allover the internet when there was no Canadian judges, none, on the men's judging panel at the time?

    By the way, we do know the judges' names and the countries they come from. But it is not clear which scores were given by which judges. On another thought, why do you want to punch the country the judges belong to?
    ^^ IMO, your post adds very little of substance to the conversation. We are not talking about full-blown "conspiracies." The traditional political way that figure skating judging has operated and still operates to a degree has not and does not require elaborate conspiratorial plots. Quid pro quo politicking and bloc-judging always existed openly behind-the-scenes and was also evident during televised events re the scoring results.

    As Vash01 points out, IJS has allowed judges to hide behind their anonymity and remain unaccountable. As well, the IJS scoring system allows wide leeway for manipulation of the marks. Politics is still a huge factor in the scoring, but the present system cloaks the process which prevents any possibility of accurately determining the level and extent that political influence plays in the manipulation of the marks. Some of the questionable scoring is probably attributable to lack of competence by some judges, or to their inability to be effective under the circumstances of all that they are required to weigh and assess within a short period of time.

    "Conspiracy" is just the word on the wing appropriated by those who are offended by claims of politicking and as a result desire to exaggerate, belittle and misinterpret substantive claims and debates surrounding judging controversies.

    IMHO, no matter what scoring system we're talking about, it has always been the fans and the skaters who end up being on the receiving end of b*t*h slaps and gut-punches.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skateboy View Post
    I'm always a little amused when I read comments about "the judges," as if they are some kind of group of people who all know one another and conspire for or against competitors.

    Yes, I'm aware that, especially in the past, there have been issues with shady judging. But really, haven't those occurrences been relatively rare? I believe that most judges are honest people who merely want to do their part for the sport. Many international judges don't even speak a common language. If most big competitions were fixed or based solely on reputation, Michelle Kwan would have won OGM in 1998 (no one was particularly politicking for Tara that year); Irina or Michelle would have won OGM over Sarah Hughes (Sarah was a podium contender but hardly an OGM favorite); Kurt Browning would have been awarded an Olympic medal of some sort, regardless of how he skated; the Carruthers would have been kept off the podium, etc., etc., etc.

    So, do most of you think that competitions are pre-judged/rigged and that there is major conspiracy going on behind the scenes? (For the record, I think it is very rare.)
    Well, IRRC, Irina was one first place ordinal away from winning the OGM in 2002. Michelle was one 2nd place ordinal away from winning. I honestly don't believe "the judges" were making sure the "right person" won. Irina should not have any first place votes from anyone.

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    IME the majority of judges are honest and very hard working people who give incredible amounts of time to the sport because they love it, and who want to see skaters do well.

    Unfortunately, what gets noticed are the few bad apples who engage in conspiracies, vote trading, and other forms of fixing.

    And the ISU could do a lot about this by giving some meaningful punishment to those who are caught, and by enforcing that punishment.
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    Anyone that believes there are no (or less) politics in the IJS cmpared with the 6.0 system, is turning a blind eye/deaf ear. Actually under IJS the judges are not even held accountable; they can hide. Their names and countries are not displayed. At least in the 6.0 we knew what countries they represented and sometimes even saw their faces (e.g. the French judge that gave K&P 5.5 for their 1992 Oly LP). There have been plenty of controversies under the IJS, but we don't have a punching bag like the 6.0 system provided.
    The judging under CoP at Senior "B," Junior Grand Prix, Junior "B," and domestic competitions is not anonymous. Are you suggesting that we can find examples of politicking in the protocols of these events? If so, I'd love to know your examples.

    Or are you suggesting that there is no politicking in these events, where we can see how each judge scored each skater, but that anonymity affords an opportunity for politicking that does not otherwise exist?


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