SOCHI, Russia -- Wait a second. The U.S. and Russia are cooperating with each other to cheat in a figure skating scandal? Yeah, right. And once the Olympics figure skating competition is completed, the Republicans and Democrats will hold hands and settle their differences over the Affordable Care Act.
The French newspaper L'Equipe published a story Saturday quoting an unnamed Russian coach saying there was a deal between the U.S. and Russia to help each other win gold. This deal allegedly would help Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White beat Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for the gold medal in ice dancing while Russia would win both the team and pairs competition.
U.S. Figure Skating denied the allegation. "Comments made in a L'Equipe story are categorically false," it said in a release. "There is no 'help' between countries. We have no further response to rumors, anonymous sources or conjecture."
All this is shades of the 2002 Salt Lake Games when the French judge fixed her scores in a scandal that put Jamie Sale and David Pelletier on the cover of Time magazine, forced the IOC to award a second gold medal in the pairs competition and prompted the International Skating Union to dramatically change the entire scoring system to make such fixes far more difficult.
While that 2002 fix definitely happened, this allegation is very dubious.
For one thing, Davis and White are the reigning world champions, at the peak of their careers. Yes, Virtue and Moir won gold in Vancouver and are right behind them in the world rankings, but would the U.S. really feel so desperate it needed to cheat in this situation? Or even have a desire to cheat? Or be willing to risk destroying reputations in such a way?
Plus, the two dance pairs not only train in the same rink outside Detroit, they have the same coach, for crying out loud!
The Russians, meanwhile, have a significant six-point lead in the team competition heading into Sunday's finals. Did they feel they really needed help from the U.S. to win gold?
Furthermore, how would this even work under the new scoring system? It might be possible but would require so many layers of cooperation and combined deception and skulduggery between old rivals that not even Edward Snowden could track it all down.
Davis and White said they hadn't heard about the story until reporters questioned them in the mixed zone following their win with another sublime performance in the short dance portion of the team competition Saturday. "That's unfortunate but we're still focused on our jobs and we really don't know a whole lot about anything else," Davis said. "I think we're confident that what we're putting out on the ice speaks for itself."
Davis and White won the short dance with a score of 75.98 while Virtue and Moir were second with a score of 72.98 after Virtue blew a twizzle move in their routine. They blamed themselves, not the judges, for their score
"We lived through Sale and Pelletier, and figure skating has a storied past with all that stuff, but the beautiful thing about being an athlete is that it's none of our concern," Moir said. "It's all about us. When we sit in the kiss and cry and get our marks, the disappointment on our faces was because of our performance. It has nothing to do with the technical panel or the judges."
White said he and Davis have been through so much during their 17-year skating partnership that they know how to stay focused. "Going into each event we just want to do our best so we don't let any sort of external factors, big or small, play any sort of equation into what we're doing or expecting or how we want to skate. We're here to do our job."
For one thing, Davis and White are the reigning world champions, at the peak of their careers. Yes, Virtue and Moir won gold in Vancouver and are right behind them in the world, but would the U.S. really feel so desperate it needed to cheat in this situation? Or even have a desire to cheat? Or be willing to risk destroying reputations in such a way? I don't think so.