SOCHI, Russia ― The otherwise peppy world of ice dance was rocked Saturday by the accusation that a judge-fixing scandal is in the works at the Olympics and ― OK, OK, stop laughing.
This is serious. Yeah, it's ice dance, but cheating at the Winter Games? Backroom deal making? Suspicions and denials and political deals and all sorts of under-the-table stuff?
Good times. The Olympics have officially begun.
[Slideshow: Spectacular images from the Opening Ceremony]
L'Equipe ― the French newspaper that always said Lance Armstrong was doping before everyone else said Lance Armstrong was doping, including, eventually, Lance Armstrong himself ― reported that an unnamed Russian coach says the fix is in over here at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
The deal is this: The United States judge at the new team competition for figure skating would assist the Russians in securing gold. In exchange, the Russian judge will help U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White win gold in the individual ice dance event that takes place Feb. 16-17.
Of course, the U.S. Figure Skating Federation denied the report, but so did Lance Armstrong once. Even if it's true, that doesn't mean U.S. officials were in on it. Both White and Davis said they knew nothing of it. "This is the first we are hearing about it," Davis said. Meanwhile, the judges are barred from speaking to the media until after the competition.
That left everyone trying to decipher scores and make initial reactions after the ice dance and ladies short programs of the team competition on Saturday night. Were the Russians getting judged too high? Did the Americans earn their first place here ― even if it has no bearing on the individual competition? And what the heck is a twizzle?
No one knows anything. No one is naive enough to rule it out, though.
"I guess that's the [problem with] being in a judged sport," Canada's Tessa Virtue said. "There's not much you can do about it."
[Related: Ice dance preview: teams to watch]
Virtue and her partner Scott Moir should be upset, concerned and troubled. They are the chief contenders to Davis and White for the ice dance gold, so if the deal is real, it's those two who are getting jobbed.
Outside of that, as potential scandals, this may not register as much more than one of those comically viral stories that the Games produce. It might even be a positive.
Russia and the U.S. working together? Even after all the bickering, posturing and passive-aggressive maneuvering between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama over these Olympics?
No offense, Virtue and Moir, but most of the world might trade a little judge rigging in an ice dance event if it positively affected the DEFCON level.
Besides, this is a complete boon to ice dance, which sits in the shadow of individual figure skating and is in a forever battle to be taken seriously. There are none of the daring jumps of the men's and women's events and the wild throws of pairs, just two people ballroom dancing on ice in elaborate costumes.
[ Related: Ice dancing vs. pairs skating ]
It's certainly not something 99.9 percent of the world's population could do. These are fine athletes. They train hard.
Still, France's Fabian Bourzat skated here on Saturday in a pinstripe suit and red tie, a look befitting a hedge fund manager but not one speaking to the seriousness of the competition. Italy's Luca Lanotte wore a bowtie with matching handkerchief in the pocket of his blue velvet blazer.
One of the questions post-skate for Davis went as such:
Any significance to the new dress?
"You mean besides how beautiful it is," White said, jumping in.
It went on from there.
Well, now ice dance has its retort. There is no greater sign of its importance than the mere fact that two of the world's superpowers are willing to overlook their myriad of differences, from Snowden to Syria, to cheat the event.
[ Slideshow: Emotional Olympic celebrations ]
Take that, curling. This is what we call a shot of credibility.
Also, there's now a reason to watch ice dance, if only to see if the fix really is in. Besides, who doesn't like a little USA-Canada bad blood, and not just in hockey? That would be some dirty pool if America teamed up with Russia, of all places, to get the upper hand on the country that sits so peacefully to the north, kindly sending us maple syrup and Molson.
So maybe the ice dancers will throw down. Moir, the Canadian, was gracious in what he said, but there appeared to be a hint of an edge to him.
"The best thing about being an athlete is that that's not our concern," Moir said.
If they are keeping score and the score may not be legit, you can bet it's his concern. There's plenty of time for the heat to get turned up. And since ice dance isn't new to scandal ― there was a fixing scandal at the 2002 Games in Utah that led to an overhaul of the entire scoring system ― no one was completely shocked at the allegation.
This is an event that is entirely and completely subjective, where makeup, beauty and costume actually count for something. As Davis said, this is a judged event, and, as such, bias and trades and deal-making are inherent in the process.
[ Related: USA surges back in figure skating ]
No one cares if you're pretty in downhill skiing. You make it to the bottom of the hill fastest or you don't. Not true here, which is why it's probably the single easiest thing to fix at the Olympics.
And maybe the U.S. and Russia are in the midst of doing it. If true, well, how long until Putin and Obama are sharing a beer and petting snow leopards together?
… if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change …
Maybe Glasnost II is beginning, straight out of the skating venue, of all places.
Or else it's just ice dance.
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