International gymnastics officials are considering rule changes they hope will prevent another debacle like the one at the Athens Olympics that, a month later, still has Paul Hamm defending his all-around gold medal.
The International Gymnastics Federation, known as FIG, announced Friday it will recommend that judges who make mistakes be punished immediately, with sanctions lasting up to four years. And USA Gymnastics is proposing the use of video replay in the review of start values.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to look at the rules and see if there’s anything else that needs to be stated,” Hamm said Friday. “A lot of the rules in the case that we’re dealing with are unwritten, but everyone understands them. I think FIG is going to clarify everything and make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen again.”
The proposals from the FIG’s executive commission and USA Gymnastics will be considered at the FIG congress next month in Turkey.
The FIG came under fire in Athens after it discovered a scoring error that may have cost Yang Tae-young of South Korea the men’s all-around title. Yang, who finished with a bronze, was wrongly docked a tenth of a point on his second-to-last routine, the parallel bars. He finished third, 0.049 points behind Hamm, who became the first American man to win gymnastics’ biggest prize.
But add the extra 0.100, and Yang would have finished 0.051 points ahead of Hamm. That, however, assumes everything in the final rotation would have played out the same way.
The FIG acknowledged the error and suspended three judges, but has said repeatedly it won’t change the results because the South Koreans didn’t file a protest until after the meet. Yang has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the case will be heard Monday in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Many criticized the FIG for even considering Yang’s protest in Athens, because its current rules call for judges to be evaluated at a technical committee meeting, usually months after the event. Under its proposal, judges would be punished as soon as it was proven they made a mistake.
Video replay would allow judges to go back during the competition and correct a start value. USA Gymnastics already uses video replay at its events.
“There needs to be a comprehensive inquiry review system that allows the officials on the floor, the teams on floor, to make an inquiry with clear rules on when and how you do it, and a legitimate time frame in which it must be executed so officials can get together on floor and do a video review and fix an honest mistake,” USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi said.
But video replay should apply only to start values, not execution deductions, he said. Execution deductions — steps on landings, falling off an apparatus, improper body positions — tend to be more clear-cut.
“The time is right to introduce this,” Colarossi said. “I think we’re ready for it technologically, and I think we’re ready for it as a federation. Everyone wants the results to be fair and they want them to stand.”
The FIG also wants to scrap the code of points that was supposed to take effect in January and write a new one. The code of points is an extensive guide to the difficulty value assigned to every move and combination of moves.
FIG didn’t explain how it would change the code of points. But in Athens, FIG president Bruno Grandi said he favored an open-ended code, which would allow gymnasts to do routines with a start value greater than 10.0, the current maximum.
“I think it’s a very interesting idea,” Colarossi said. “I look forward to seeing the proposal, and I hope there will be high-level athletes and coaches involved in this, people who are in the gym every day covered in chalk dust. Because there are certainly some places where the code can be improved.”
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