This is a pretty easy take away message, and figure skating is not surprisingly the sport to deliver this one. Figure skating might be one of the roughest non-contact sports there is. Cheating by judges and skaters attacking other skaters off the ice are legendary. Cheating in judging scandals have resulted in a revised evaluation system that most would suggest isn’t much of an improvement (more about that in another post). To say that judging in figure skating has credibility problems is an understatement.
So, it’s not surprising (even if it isn’t true) that as the competition begins there are rumors that the Russian and US judges are colluding to squeeze Canada out of any medals. As reported in the Globe and Mail, “The allegation implies the pact would see the U.S. judge dish out favourable marks to Russia in the team event, where the U.S. is not a contender for the podium, in exchange for the Russian judge boosting the scores for Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White in the ice dance.” This sort of collusion harkens back to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics where the Canadian pairs team lost the gold to Russia, and the French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne eventually revealed she was pressured by the French with the influence of a Russian mobster to award the Russians high marks, in exchange for similar treatment for France’s ice dance team. (For a quick summary, click here.) So yeah, rumour or truth, the fact that it’s happened before lends just a little weight to the “current” collusion accusations.
Most evaluators aren’t in the position to collude in quite the same way as these Machiavellian figure skating judges, but the advice ~ do not cheat still holds. The cheating might take on a different form… like designing an evaluation you know will make the evaluand look to be a failure. The best (meaning most egregious and obvious) example of this that comes to mind is Charles Murray’s evaluation of PUSHExcel in the 1980s. Designing an evaluation that some have contended was inappropriate and doomed the program before the evaluation began, is cheating. Rigging the evaluation through a priori manipulation of the means for judging, whether in figure skating or program evaluation just isn’t what we should do!