Thursday, March 6, 2014

Olympic Judging Scandal Uncovered

A Boston Blickbild Excluive

There is trouble brewing over Max Franz's gold medal in Sochi for best artistry (see this story). 
Germany and Switzerland have made a formal protest to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over Stefan Luitz's bronze medal and Didier Defago's 4th place finish. Evidently Germany felt that Stefan deserved the gold for best artistry, while the Swiss believed that Didier deserved a medal. Our intrepid research team has uncovered corruption among the International Ski Federation's (FIS) artistry judges in Sochi. We wanted to talk with Bob, our favorite contact at the FIS, but his bosses were beginning to wonder why he spends his time talking to us and not doing any real work. But one of our intrepid reporters scored a journalistic coup and was able to talk with the FIS men's technical director Guenter Hujara about the judging in Sochi and the German/Swiss protest. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Before we talk about the situation with Germany and Switzerland, can you please explain to our readers about the artistry judges. First of all, how many artistry judges are there?
Hujara: There are six judges who score the racers on their artistry. There is a seventh judge, the head judge, who decides if a racer's moves should earn a bonus for artistic impression, difficulty, or originality. In addition to skiing fast, artistry is a very important part of ski racing (see this story).
BB: Where do the judges come from and what are their qualifications?
Hujara: Most of our judges are figure skating or gymnastics judges, but we also have some who are specifically trained in ski racing artistry. They come from all of the FIS member countries.  However, three of the judges on the artistry panel must come from: Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, or the USA. The other three are from the other member nations. The head judge on each panel cannot be from the same country as any of the other six.
BB: How are the judges selected?
Hujara: There is a random draw at the beginning of the season for every competition, including the Olympics and World Championships.
BB: Please explain the scoring system.
Hujara: A ski racer can earn up to 10 points for artistry. However, they can earn bonus points for originality and difficulty, which can give them a score higher than 10. The six judges give the racer a score. The high and low scores are thrown out and the middle four scores are averaged. Then the head judge's bonus for artistic impression, difficulty and originality are added to that average to get the total score.
BB: Now let's talk about the protests by Germany and Switzerland. Both of those countries felt that their racers were underscored, while Austrian gold medalist Max Franz was overscored. Max got 12.60 points, Alexander Aamodt Kilde of Norway had 9.20, Stefan Luitz had 8.75, and Defago 8.60.
Hujara: That is correct. Artistry is subjective and can't be measured by a clock. It is up to the judges to decide which moves are truly artistic and original and how well they are executed.
BB: Our intrepid research team found out that the head judge in the men's super-combined race was a figure skating judge from Austria. Max Franz specializes in figure skating moves.
Hujara: The six judges in the super-combined race were from France, Italy, the USA, Poland, Japan, and Uruguay. The French judge gave Max a score of 9.7, which was thrown out, as was the Polish judge's score of 9.3. The others gave him a 9.5, two 9.6s and a 9.7. The head judge gave Max three points in artistry and execution bonus because he prefers classical technique, which Max used.
BB: Our intrepid researchers also noticed that the giant slalom race, where Luitz and Defago got their scores, also had an Austrian head judge.
Hujara: The head judges are chosen by a random draw. It was strictly a coincidence that there was an Austrian head judge for two races.
BB: What were Defago's deductions? The Swiss say that his spin move was equally as impressive as Max Franz's, yet he got a much lower score and no bonus points. 
Hujara: A special FIS committee looked at the scores and found that the giant slalom judges were very strict. They gave the lowest average scores in the five disciplines, but they were consistent for each racer. Perhaps they felt that Didier was copying Max's move. Didier's spin was not as cleanly executed as Max's.
BB: Max had the advantage from figure skating training, so that should have been taken into consideration. What were Stefan Luitz's deductions? One would think that a limbo move to straddle to finish on one leg would get a huge bonus from the judges. We saw a poll of the spectators, which said that Luitz should have won gold.
Hujara:  The spectators are not judges and don't understand about what things get a bonus or a deduction. Stefan made a classic beginner's mistake by straddling the last gate before the finish line. He was also deducted by changing his limbo move at the last moment, which resulted in the straddle, and for finishing off balance.
BB: Or maybe both Stefan and Didier got a lot of deductions and zero bonus points because the Austrian head judge wanted to ensure that a fellow countryman won the gold medal. 
Hujara: That's an unfair accusation and something for the CAS to decide.
BB: You said that the artistry and head judges are chosen by a random draw. Was it really  random having an Austrian head judge for two races? The odds are 1 in 10,816 that an Austrian would be the head judge if the draw was truly random. 
Hujara: We stand by our random draw for the judges. Austria just got lucky with the draw for both races. Croatia was selected to set courses for two men's races in Sochi and that draw was also fair.
BB: In slalom races the FIS has a panel of experts who watch videos of the race to catch skiers who unknowingly straddle a gate. Do you have anyone who watches videos to make sure there is no judging bias?
Hujara: That is not necessary. Our judges are highly competent and are always right, even when they are wrong. 
BB: You left out one thing about the head judge. He also has the power to tell the other judges to raise or lower their scores. 
Hujara: The FIS found no evidence that the Austrian head judge told the others to raise or lower their scores. We interviewed the judges in the super-combined and GS races and they all denied that the Austrian head judge told them to raise or lower their scores.
BB: Lance Armstrong also denied that he was doping, yet the truth came out later and look what happened. (short pause) One of our intrepid researchers talked to some of the judges. One of them said that the Austrian judge threatened to find a witch doctor to make voodoo dolls of them and stick lots of pins in them if they didn't raise their scores for Max Franz. The original scores for Max were lower, but they were told to raise them.
Hujara: That can't be! Our judges are honest and would report any threats or wrongdoing.
BB: Another judge said that the Austrian head judge at the GS race made the artistry judges lower their scores by almost a point. If they didn't, the Austrians would send a Mafia hit man to their houses. That is why the GS scores were low compared to the others.
Hujara: That is nonsense! The CAS will have the final word on whether the medal standings are correct or not. For now they are official and will stand.
BB: The Blickbild did its own investigation. We hired independent panels of figure skating and gymnastics judges, who analyzed the videos from the Olympics and came up with a different result. Our judges had Luitz in first place with a score of 11.3, which includes a two point originality and difficulty bonus. Kilde was still in second place but his score was 9.7, which includes a one point bonus for originality. Franz was 3rd with 9.4. He got a one point bonus for artistic impression. Defago was still fourth place, but his score was 9.0. 
Hujara: The FIS could use its own judges and come up with a different result. Remember, the FIS is always right, even when we are wrong.
BB: We showed our video to three different judging panels and the scores I mentioned were the averages from the three panels. 
Hujara: Any stories of the Austrian head judge trying to influence the others sounds like jealousy. The other countries are simply jealous that Austria is back at the top of the medal table, where it should be, after being beaten by the USA in 2010.
BB: Are you confessing that the Austrian judge used his influence to hand Max Franz a gold medal to ensure Austria's place at the top of the standings?
Hujara: No, of course not, because there was no wrongdoing. We will leave it to the CAS to decide if our judges are corrupt or not. If any of our judges did anything wrong, they will be suspended.
BB: I think it  may be time to start training a new group of judges. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and your insight into the artistry judging in Sochi. The Blickbild will be in Switzerland to cover the hearing at the CAS. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.
The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters never use their influence to get a story.

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