Netflix ‘Bad Sport’: Did Marie-Reine Le Gougne really cheat at the 2002 Winter Olympics?

The Olympic Games are the most important and prestigious sporting event in the world. Athletes from over 200 countries compete to win medals for their respective countries and become Olympic legends. So, it’s no shock that every piece of news from the event instantly becomes the headliner. But there haven’t been too many cases of controversial wins at the Olympics. However, there is one case that completely shocked the whole world and is still considered one of the most embarrassing moments in Games history.

At the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, athletes had to deliver the performance of their lives and win a medal. The games were being held in Salt Lake City, Utah and everyone was thrilled to see the final of the figure skating event. One of the judges at the event was Marie-Reine Le Gougne, the former French figure skater. But at the end of the event, something really weird happened that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.


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It was reported that someone from the jury cheated and picked the Russian pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton ahead of Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, even though the Habs’ routine was better than that of the Russians. The French judge, Le Gougne, has drawn the most suspicion. So what did she do? And was she really guilty of cheating? Let’s dig a little deeper and find the truth.

Who is Marie-Reine Le Gougne?

Le Gougne started figure skating as a child in France and was considered one of the best skaters. She competed at a high level and won the bronze medal at the French National Championships twice. The former athlete later decided to become a skating judge and quickly rose through the ranks. At the age of 36, she judged the figure skating event at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. In 2002, she also returned to judge the event at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

However, his whole life changed after the end of the figure skater and a scandal arose.

What happened during the figure skating scandal at the 2002 Olympics?

Russian pair Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were in the top two with Canadians Sale and Pelletier. During the short program, Salé and Pelletier tripped and fell in their closing pose. Because the fall was not on an element, it did not receive a deduction but did put the pair in second behind Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze.

Salé and Pelletier received 5.9 and 5.8 for technical merit, while the Russians received mainly 5.8 and 5.7. However, the Canadians only received four 5.9s for presentation compared to seven for the Russians. So the Russians won gold and the Canadians won silver. As soon as the results were announced, TV commentators immediately questioned the judgment and they knew some of the judges had done some manipulation.

When she returned to the officials’ hotel, Sally Stapleford, President of the International Skating Union Technical Committee, confronted her. During questioning, Le Gougne had a breakdown in which she allegedly said she had been pressured by the head of the French skating organization, Didier Gailhaguet, to vote for the Russian pair, regardless of who or the performance of others.

However, in a later signed statement, she denied participating in such a deal and also revealed that she truly believes the Russians deserve to win.

The results

On April 30, 2002, Le Gougne and Gailhaguet were suspended by the ISU for three years and banned from attending the 2006 Winter Olympics for their role in the scandal. Le Gougne and Gailhaguet were accused of manipulating the score in the final. She was convicted of misconduct on two counts.

The whole crisis turned everything upside down for the ISU and a new organization was formed and it was named the World Skating Federation. It took all control away from the ISU.
In 2018, in an interview with Reuters, Le Gougne said she did not have the power to see a skating competition after what happened in 2002. “I am absolutely unable to watch a competition on television. since February 11, 2002. ”says Le Gougne.

The whole story of the figure skating scandal will be told in detail in the upcoming sports documentary series on Netflix, titled “Bad Sport.”

“Bad Sport” hits Netflix on Wednesday, October 6.

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