National skating federations ask for ethics panel

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

With the sport reeling from accusations of an Olympic fix, the U.S. Figure Skating Association is calling for an independent ethics commission. Now.

USFSA president Phyllis Howard sent International Skating Union head Ottavio Cinquanta a letter asking that such a commission be formed ''with all deliberate speed.''

''I am concerned that there is a residual effect here, that people have in their minds that it is a corrupt sport,'' Howard, a member of the ISU council, said Wednesday.

''I do think it's very important the ISU deal with this in such a way that it puts to rest any perception that skating is a corrupt sport.''

Such a board could look into questions about the Salt Lake City Games, but also any future ethical problems.

Howard recommended that the ethics panel be independent of the ISU council, which currently handles disciplinary matters. While she didn't want to get into details until Cinquanta responds, she left open the possibility of involving people outside the sport.

''It is critical,'' she wrote in her letter, ''that the integrity of such a group is beyond reproach and has immediate public acceptance.''

There was no answer to a telephone call placed to ISU headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday. Reputed Russian mobster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was arrested last week in Italy on a U.S. criminal complaint accusing him of fixing the results of the pairs and ice dancing competitions at the Salt Lake City Olympics. The complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court, was based on wiretaps.

Italian police said Tokhtakhounov might have contacted up to six judges to help secure a gold medal for the Russians in pairs in exchange for a victory by the French ice dancing team.

Tokhtakhounov has denied the accusations. On Tuesday, he said he will fight extradition to the United States, a battle that could drag on for weeks.

''While a formal investigation is being conducted by the U.S. government, the results of that investigation may not be known for some time,'' Howard wrote in her letter to Cinquanta.

''Further, this investigation may only address the Salt Lake City incident. An (ISU) investigation which goes far enough to reassure everyone that results are fairly determined is essential to the survival of the sport.''

After Salt Lake City, the USFSA asked the ISU congress to consider a lifetime ban for any judge or federation official found guilty of an ''ethical violation.'' But the proposal was scrapped when delegates at a June congress raised concerns over what would be considered an ''ethical violation'' and who would determine it.

Before it withdrew its proposal, though, the USFSA got a pledge that the ISU would form an ethics commission.

That has yet to happen, and Howard's letter is a not-so-subtle nudge to get the ISU moving.

''We need to find a way to get beyond this,'' she said Wednesday. ''I am looking toward a definite process.''



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