ISU Official Suspended Last Year Under Investigation Again
Less than half a year after his suspension, Alexandre Gorojdanov caught on video engaging in misconduct during a competition again.
Last March, among other officials, the International Skating Union disciplined Belarusian Alexandre Gorojdanov for an incident of judging misconduct that had taken place at the 2016 Ondrej Nepala Trophy. He had been acting as referee during the pairs free program when the Russian and Lithuanian judges began talking to each other, which judges aren’t supposed to do while judging. Gorojdanov should have stopped them. But instead he joined in, refused to address the behavior during the roundtable discussion that happened afterwards, and then lied about it in his report. He was suspended for six months, starting from when he’d been provisionally suspended, which meant he only stayed suspended until June.
It seems that may have been way too light a penalty. Gorojdanov has come back this season, and it looks like now he’s the judge possibly trying to talk to the others, and also looking at their marks before finalizing his own, which is far worse.
According to Phil Hersh, who made the report on his blog Globetrotting, Gorojdanov is under investigation for his behavior at the Golden Spin of Zagreb, held earlier this month. There he sat on the panel for the senior short dance and junior free dance. Apparently he was supposed to judge the senior free dance too, but was switched out without explanation. That may have been because of what he had done during the short dance two days earlier. Hersh claims there are two videos related to his doing so, and provided a clip of one of them:
Gorojdanov is the light-haired man in the middle, next to the judge in the red coat, Maria Abrasova of Russia. Though it’s difficult to tell from the video exactly what he’s doing, it does look like he was trying to talk to her at the beginning of it, and he was definitely looking at her way too much, with an angle where he likely saw what she’d entered on her judging screen. He also then clearly tapped commands onto his own screen. Hersh quotes anonymous experts who are of the opinion he was changing his marks. Doing that based off another judge’s marks is rigging the results, making this far worse than what happened last year, when it’s uncertain anyone’s behavior actually changed the results any.
The announcer helpfully informs us this video was when they were entered marks for American team Rachel & Michael Parsons. Gorojdanov gave them slightly higher marks than the rest of the judging panel for their clean elements and components, though not for their unclean twizzles; the only judge who’s marks were close to his was their own American judge. It may well have been enough to get them ninth in the segment instead of tenth, since they beat Germans Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis by less than two tenths of a point, and Gorojdanov scored them lower than the rest of the judges did (though the American judge scored them higher). Although it might not have mattered much anyway, since the Americans beat the Germans in the free dance too, where they skated clean.
Spanish skating fans, however, have taken note of something much graver: his marks for Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khavalian and Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz. The two teams were competing for Spain’s one Olympic berth, with it going to whoever had the higher combined scores for this event and Spanish Nationals. His marks for Hurtado & Diaz were clearly on the higher end of what they got, while he was stingier than some of the other judges on Smart & Diaz. Hurtado & Khavalian benefitted from a higher technical tariff as well, and might have beaten Smart & Diaz anyway. But when their combined scores got them the Olympic berth by only .95, the implications of these marks from a judge behaving dubiously grow very disturbing indeed.
He also was kinder to the second and third Russian senior and junior dance teams than the rest of the panel, though not to the two teams that won the senior and junior golds-in fact, he scored junior winners Eva Kuts & Dimitri Mikhailov lower than the other judges did. To the two Italian junior dance teams he was noticeably harsher. Fans have long accused judges attached to the former Soviet Republics of favoring each other’s skaters.
The only official Hersh has managed to get to put her name on the record for a comment is Halina Gordon-Poltorak, head of the ISU Technical Committee. And all she’s willing to say is that Gorojdanov is indeed under investigation. It’s mildly surprising she was willing to say that much. Last year’s scandal the public heard nothing until the verdicts and suspensions were announced. We likely won’t get any further word on this for months, possibly not even until after the season.
But if the ISU’s track record is any indication, Gorojdanov will at most get another brief suspension. The ISU has never penalized corrupt judges the way they’ve needed to. Instead, they slap them on the wrist, and one of figure skating’s biggest problems goes unsolved.