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Uncommon Knowledge

Figure skating: more corrupt than ever?

And other suprising insights from the social sciences

Figure skating: more corrupt
than ever?

In the Olympics, many events depend on subjective scoring from a panel of judges. But confidence in these scoring systems has been undermined by scandals, perhaps most infamously a 2002 pairs skating case in which a French judge “was reportedly pressured by some combination of her national federation and the Russian mafia to vote for a Russian pair in exchange for a Russian vote for a French couple in ice dancing.” In response, the International Skating Union, the ISU, anonymized judges’ scores—on the theory that vote trading would then be harder to carry off—and developed an elaborate score-tabulation system. A new study from a professor of economics at Dartmouth, however, suggests this has all been for naught or, even worse, for show. He finds that, if anything, a competitor with a compatriot on the judging panel can now expect even more nationalistic bias and vote trading. And he thinks the ISU may be part of the problem: “Some of the actions of the ISU after the 2002 judging scandal can only be rationalized as attempts to reduce the perception of corruption by limiting outside monitoring.”

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