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Sport: Figure Skating Judge Bias Essay

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Updated: Mar 19th, 2020

Sports and physical activities rely on the principle that contestants should endeavor to come first under a recognized set of laws. Ethical codes of conduct in the field of sports and physical activities ensure that equality, sincerity, and integrity are upheld. As such, they outline what is permitted and what is not permitted.

With respect to this, figure skating judge bias is considered one of the leading causes of bad behavior in sports. Over the last few years, figure skating has attracted numerous controversies. By highlighting and analyzing justice theory, panopticon theory, fair play theory, and prisoners’ dilemma theory figure skating judge bias can be understood.

Before the year 2005, figure skating was assessed with the help of a simple system (Sala & Spriggs, 2007). Notably, in the year 2002, the system’s inefficiencies were uncovered during the notorious Vote-Trading Scandal. The scandal occurred during the 2002 Winter Olympics. During the contest, the judges chose Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia as the winners of figure skating over two Canadian contestants.

The Canadian contestants were Jamie Salé and David Pelletier. During the contest, the Canadian pair had fallen on their final pose. It was surprising that the fall did not receive a deduction, but made them win the second position after the Russian contestants. It later emerged that American judges had collaborated with Russian judges to vote out Canadian participants.

The scandal attracted numerous criticisms from participating countries. After the indignation, the International Skating Union (ISU) established a new system aimed at enhancing fair judgment and thwarting corruption (Sala & Spriggs, 2007). Equally, after the intervention Soleil & Pelletier’s trophy was shared among their Russian participants.

Panopticon theory

Panopticon theory is attributed to Michel Foucault. As such, the panopticon is spherical construction with a surveillance tower in the middle of an open space enclosed by an outer partition. Foucault suggested that the partitions contain cells for the occupants. Unlike other building structures, the structure enhances security by making it possible for effective surveillance.

Given that prisoners reside within the partitions, they would be distinguished with ease by the guard at the surveillance tower. Equally, the prisoners would be invisible to one another because concrete walls divide their cells. Even though this theory is usually linked with correctional facilities, its design would be useful in ending figure skating judge bias or any other sport that requires appropriate surveillance (Sala & Spriggs, 2007).

Through this theory, the manner through which figure skating is judged can be revamped. As such, the theory will enhance the functions of disciplinary mechanisms. Similarly, the system will allow judges to monitor the contestants with ease. If the theory is implemented, the judges would be compared to the occupants of the cells. Above them is a superior body that surveys their actions in the cells.

Each judge would not be able to view or monitor what the other judges are up to because concrete barriers separate their cells. The theory would be appropriate in tackling figure skating judge bias because the judges would not be able to exchange their views on who to favor and who to vote out. Equally, if the judges recognize that their acts are being monitored from a central point they will perform their duties with sincerity and diligence.

Just like any other moral theory, panopticon theory has its strengths and weakness. As indicated above, this theory is associated with a number of benefits. As such, the theory will result in increased productivity and sincerity. Judges will work to attain their best to please their bosses or bodies overseeing their actions. The theory’s weaknesses are related to surveillance ability to compromise on an individual’s privacy.

If this theory were implemented, the judges would argue that their privacy is under threat. Considered that the Canadian constitution protects individuals’ privacy, its implementation may result in numerous court cases. The cases would try to determine to what extent is the individuals’ privacy valuable in respect to figure skating.

Justice theory

Justice theory is attributed to John Rawls. The theory asserts that unwarranted disparities call for redress (Beauchamp, 2001). Thus, the community must give priority to individuals brought up less favorable social positions or individuals with disabilities.

The theory focuses to address the issues, which humans can control. The theory bases its principle on the fact that fairness-based rationale embraces that disparities between two individuals are ethically relevant only if the subjects are accountable for the disparities.

When applied in figure skating judging process, the theory will require the judges to give priority to individuals with disabilities or individuals with unfavorable backgrounds over individuals brought up in normal backgrounds. The theory is very popular in the society because of its strengths.

As such, the principle seeks to achieve contentment and equality for a number of people in society. Concerning figure skating, the theory will only be of advantage to contestants with disabilities. As such, they would be judged equally with other contestants. Through this, the disable contestants will be appreciated for their contribution.

Despites its strengths, the theory has a number of limitations. Firstly, the theory has been criticized for failing to uphold and acknowledge individual rights. As such, many people believe that every member of the society should work hard to better their welfare or accumulate wealth other than depending on society to do so.

Such individuals would not want to share their achievements with society as the justice theory proposes. With respect to figure skating, some contestants would like the judges to come up with their decisions based on individual efforts without considering the contestants’ background or abilities. Through this, they believe the sport would be made more competitive.

Fair play

All sports should ensure that fairness, excellence, inclusion, and fun is upheld. The above attributes can be achieved through the adoption of the fair play theory (Canadian Soccer Association Fair Play Codes For Coaches, Players, and Parents, 2006).

Fair play ensures that regulations, officials, and rivals are valued at all times. Through this, it gives all contestants a fair chance to build up and evaluate their skills. Equally, it motivates them to evaluate their achievements with self-respect, honesty, and pride.

The advantages of adopting fair play theory in sport or physical activity are that it enhances accountability, integrity, respect, leadership, stewardship, excellence, and quality. Therefore, sport organizations must recognize that sports have influence in the lives of the contestants and their fans.

As such, good sports can influence affirmative change in a number of ways among the lives of several Canadians. If this theory is adopted, it would force figure skating judges to come up with morally correct and universally applicable decisions. Similarly, the theory would encourage judges to treat contestants just in the same way the judges would like to be treated by others.

Figure judge bias is unfair to act and should be ended with immediate effect. The sport is not only physically demanding but also poses exceptional problems to the contestants and their trainers.

The sport should be fair because the participants are risking their lives by engaging in a risky sport. In this regard, its rewards should be justified to encourage more participants. In addition, the contestants are emotionally affected when bias judges unfairly vote them out. As a result, this may affect their future performance.

The weakness of adopting fair play in figure skating is that it discourages competitiveness (Canadian Soccer Association Fair Play Codes For Coaches, Players, and Parents, 2006). Critics have asserted that ethical principles advocated by fair play theory do not create good sportsmanship because they limit competitiveness. Based on this, the competitiveness needed to make figure skating lively will be compromised by the adoption of such a principle.

Some games derive their competitiveness based on the belief that winning is everything. Through this, contestants, trainers, or coaches are motivated to do anything to win against other contestants. By doing so, they are committed to winning and are prepared to sacrifice anything to achieve their ambitions. As such, contestants will fake fouls, cause pain on each other, and employ the use of performance-boosting drugs to win over their rivals.

Based on the above analysis, it is apparent that figure skating judge bias is against ethical sport principles. Therefore, The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and other relevant international bodies must move with haste to end the vice.

Prisoners’ dilemma theory

The theory is based on a canonical illustration of a fixture studied in game theory. The theory asserts that two individuals might not collaborate even if it is proven that it is in their best good to do so.

The theory presumes that captives will have no chance to recompense or castigate their colleagues other than the penitentiary verdicts they get. As such, their decisions would not affect their future relationship. Based on this, it is apparent that more prisoners are willing to betray their colleagues as doing so offers better rewards than not doing so.

This theory can be useful in understanding how figure skating bias arises, its benefits to the judges, and means of ending such vices. For instance, if figure skating judges are compared with the prisoners, they would benefit immensely if they collaborate in perpetuating the act at the expense of the contestants.

As such, they would be heavily rewarded for favoring some countries or contestants to win by those seeking trophies through unfair means. Therefore, the international body governing figure skating should use the theory in ensuring that judges do not collaborate to perpetuate the vice.

If figure skating judges are interrogated individually, they would be willing to betray their fellow corrupt judges because by doing so, they believe that they would gain more than not doing so.

Based on the above illustrations, it is apparent that the strengths of this theory will be evidenced in the sporting fraternity within few months of its implementations. As such, judges would be willing to expose the corrupt individuals among their teams. Through this, the sport will enhance its credibility among its contestants and fans. However, in the end, the weakness of the theory will be witnessed.

After some time, the remaining judges will begin to realize that they are insecure because their workmates can betray them. They would realize that their future career is at a threat. Therefore, they would be forced to cooperate to safeguard their careers. Through this, the theory will no longer be applicable.


Beauchamp, Tom L. (2001). Making Decisions: Concept of Justice and Rawls’ Justice Theory. (3rd Edition). Toronto: McGraw-Hill.

Canadian Soccer Association Fair Play Codes For Coaches, Players and Parents. (2006). Retrieved March 8, 2014, from http://www.qcsoccer.ca/CSAFairPlayCodes.pdf

Sala, B., & Spriggs, J. (2007). Cold War on Ice: Constructivism and Politics of Olympic Figure Skating Judging. Perspectives on Politics, 5(01), 17-27.

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