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France to propose sweeping judging reform

France to propose sweeping judging reform

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SALT LAKE CITY - The suspended French judge at the heart of the figure skating controversy has approached the International Skating Union with a request to tell her side of the story.

At the same time, a French official plans to reintroduce a reform package Monday at the official ISU Council meeting to make judges more independent of their federations.

The proposal was narrowly defeated two years ago, but Didier Gailhaguet, France's Olympic team leader and head of its skating federation, said Sunday it should be "applied immediately and expanded upon."

"We are awaiting the reaction of the ISU" to suspended judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne's request to be heard by the panel, Gailhaguet said during a telephone interview.

"I have discussed this with the secretary general and it should be soon," he said, referring to ISU executive Fredi Schmid.

It was unclear whether Le Gougne would be able to address ISU officials before Monday's meeting.

Le Gougne hasn't commented publicly since she told the ISU she was pressured by her country's own skating federation to vote for Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze during the pairs competition on Feb. 11. That allegation has been denied by Gailhaguet.

In an extraordinary move on Friday, the ISU and the International Olympic Committee awarded a second gold medal to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, the Canadian pair who originally were left with the silver by a narrow margin.

Meantime, the French government weighed in. Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet said the suspension of Le Gougne highlighted a need to review the entire sport and said the ISU needed to "reflect" on possible changes to avoid a repeat of the scandal.

Gailhaguet said he would reintroduce a French-Slovenian proposal to improve judging, which was narrowly defeated at the 2000 Quebec City Congress.

"It was a plan to make judges professional and be independent from their nations to judge the major competitions," he said. "The project was refused by two votes. It needed a two-thirds majority" from the 100 votes of the congress.

The actual final vote could not immediately be determined. One skating official recalled that it was close, but couldn't verify that the proposal lost by only two votes.

Cinquanta has said such a system would not work at this time because judges have strong ties to their national federations.

"Most important is to have good judges with good skills," Cinquanta said earlier this week. "To not put a country on the panel is as if you are saying their judges are cheating. We want to give dignity to all judges we have - as long as they are good judges."

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