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Reform Looms After ISU Vote

Skating: ISU Congress approves idea that major changes are still needed for judging and scoring.


KYOTO, Japan — Ottavio Cinquanta left no doubt who's running figure skating--or that he believes the time has passed for cronyism and outdated rules.

An International Skating Union proposal for major reform of the sport's judging and scoring, pushed vigorously by Cinquanta, was approved, 81-16, with seven abstentions at the ISU Congress Monday evening here. However, Cinquanta said the concept of reform was ratified, not the specific provisions of the initiative, and said other "urgent proposals" for reform will be discussed when figure skating officials meet Wednesday.

"This is a good result for the ISU because now we have opened another door," he said. "We have a certain variety.... We are in the middle of a crisis and we are responsible to find a solution, because the situation is grave."

Cinquanta repeatedly described the ISU proposal--first outlined during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics--as a project that is perhaps 70% complete and requires testing and study. Its implementation hinges on another vote of the Congress. Cinquanta said it could be used at an "important" competition in the 2003-04 season, such as a Grand Prix event.

The session had some contentious moments, most notably when Cinquanta scolded Sally Anne Stapleford of Great Britain, chair of the powerful technical committee and part of the sport's old guard, for not actively helping repair the ISU's tarnished image after the pairs judging scandal at the Olympics.

When Stapleford asked whether a vote for the proposal constituted approval of it as written or an approval of general reform, Cinquanta accused her of abandoning the ISU while it scrambled to regain its equilibrium at the Games.

"We were waiting in Salt Lake City for your contribution. You disappeared," he said. "You left the [ISU] council alone. The council has a lot of people. We hoped to be escorted by you because you are very active, but you disappeared."

Stapleford was stunned by the barrage.

"I think it was inappropriate," she said. "I did say I was rather surprised at his reaction and said I was trying to help him out in what's going to be a rather difficult situation and get the project researched.... The first I heard of the project was in Salt Lake. I wasn't asked for any input."

Cinquanta clearly was intent on getting his way, ensuring the ISU proposal was discussed on the first day and by the full Congress. The group will split into speedskating and figure skating sections Wednesday to discuss rules pertaining to each sport.

It is in those meetings that the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. will push its reforms, which are less radical than the ISU's and could be more quickly implemented.

Like the ISU, the USFSA proposes calculating skaters' placements through random computer selection of scores from a panel of judges. The USFSA would keep the 6.0 perfect score and rank skaters by their median marks. The ISU advocates dropping the perfect 6.0 score and determining placements by cumulative points based on the value of jumps or spins. The U.S. modifications could be in effect while the ISU system is being tested, with a final decision made at a future Congress.

The U.S. delegation felt bowled over by Cinquanta and was concerned its proposal and an Australian plan would be ignored. Nonetheless, the U.S. cast its two votes for the ISU proposal.

"I can support change. It's what's in the details and how much of the details that would be used in the future. That's what makes me nervous," said John LeFevre, executive director of the USFSA. "At least we wanted to make sure our proposal would be heard in the figure skating section. I think we have a lot of support."

The USFSA lost a minor battle when its proposal mandating a lifetime ban for any skater, ISU official, judge, referee or federation official found guilty of an ethical violation was faulted by Cinquanta as too vague.

After he said an ethics commission would be formed to define violations, the USFSA withdrew the proposal.

USFSA President Phyllis Howard agreed the proposal was too broad but said it was put forth to get the organization on the record as taking a moral stand.

Today, the Congress rejected a Canadian proposal that would have prohibited federation presidents from serving as referees or judges. New Zealand and Yugoslavia opposed it, saying it would have penalized small countries that don't have enough knowledgeable officials to separate the two roles.

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