The 2002 Winter Olympics Figure Skating Scandal Explained

Held in Beijing, the 2022 Winter Olympics begin February 4, per the official Olympics website. No matter where the games occur, figure skating is among the most eagerly anticipated events. In 2002, the Winter Olympics were in Salt Lake City, Utah, where a shocking figure skating scandal happened. In the aftermath, the sport's entire point system was revamped. Chronicling the controversy is "Meddling," a four-part documentary series streaming on Peacock (via YouTube).

It all began when Canadian ice skating pair, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, gave an impeccable final program. Nonetheless, the athletes lost the gold to Russian skaters Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who had several mistakes in their performance and a lower score. The Canadians were awarded silver (via Britannica). The figure skating scoring system has long been subjective. This particularly disparity was too obvious to overlook, however, and a French skating judge was at the center of the storm.

A judge was reportedly pressured

In the investigation following Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze's gold win and Salé and Pelletier taking home silver, Marie-Reine Le Gougne was reportedly pressured by Didier Gailhaguet, the president of the French Federation of Ice Sports, to award points to the Russians rather than the Canadians, according to Reuters. Both Le Gougne and Gailhaguet were suspended. Le Gougne denied the accusation, claiming she was approached but refused, and that if she had it to do over again, she'd still award the gold to Russia (via Reuters).

Suspensions aside, the most lasting effect of the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal is the new way in which the sport is judged, minimizing subjectivity on the part of the judges in favor of a 6.0-point system thought to provide more objective results. Many within the skating community still believe Le Gougne buckled under pressure, and a second gold was awarded to the Canadian skaters following the investigation (via Britannica). The 2022 Winter Olympics airs in the United States February 4 through 20 on NBC and NBCUniversal's TV Networks.