World Figure Skating Championships: the sad behind the scenes

A month and a half after the publicized suspension of a Russian skater for doping, the World Figure Skating Championships are being held in Montreal against a backdrop of allegations and controversial decisions.

• Read also: World Figure Skating Championships: “extremely kind” sexual attacker

“It’s a first in 92 years, so it’s a unique opportunity that we won’t have a lot of time at Patinage Québec,” explains the general director of the federation, Any-Claude Dion.

She recalls, in passing, the efforts that her team made to obtain the World Championships in Montreal, after they were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a unique chance to develop our discipline,” adds Dion.

This is the first time in four years that our journalist, who co-directed the documentary Pressure and wrote the book A medal at all costs, on slip-ups in the world of figure skating, managed to have a telephone interview with Patinage Québec. The questions, however, were to concern only the Worlds.

However, for two years, athletes and coaches who are members of Skate Canada and Patinage Québec have been in the news for scandals and allegations: investigation opened at the Office of the Commissioner for Integrity in Sport for an alleged sexual assault, methods of controversial training of an elite coach denounced and presence of members of organizations during a trial for sexual assault in order to support a former coach found guilty.

Asked about slippages in their environment, the federations prefer to limit their answers and refer to the code of ethics and professional conduct.


When we visited a Worlds training session last week, several well-known faces from the figure skating community were present, including coaches and organizers of the event.

One of them was seen in August at the Montreal courthouse during the sentencing representations of Richard Gauthier, convicted of sexual assault on a skater, who at the time of the events was approximately 14 years old. years. Other members of the federation instead sent the judge a letter of support for the attacker (see other text on pages 86 and 87).

Asked about the support of the members of Patinage Québec, Mme Dion declined to comment.

“These are people who have been involved in sport and who have made personal choices. My comment on this subject will end here. »

Same story regarding the many issues linked to skating including the toxic climate, mental health problems, untreated injuries, eating disorders denounced in the documentary Pressure,— of the Bureau of Investigation, and in numerous articles.

“When situations arise like we talked about in the documentary, there are things that are entrusted to our independent investigation entity […] and it is they who have this independence to carry out the follow-ups and the research, Dion. Following this report, steps were taken and the conclusions were transmitted. »

Mme Dion declined to elaborate on these findings.

“Our protocols do not allow us [de répondre]. It is a system that is independent in order to protect members and to protect the members of our organization.”


Same response regarding an internal investigation by the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner into allegations of sexual assault against Canadian dancer Nikolaj Sørensen. A former figure skater from the United States was allegedly attacked by Sørensen almost 12 years ago, in April 2012, in Hartford, Connecticut. The athlete denies everything. Sport Canada, headed by the federal government, confirms “being aware of Mr. Sørensen’s situation”, but without giving further details.

Nikolaj Sørensen and Laurence Fournier Beaudry had to answer questions regarding an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against the skater.

Photo Agence QMI, JOEL LEMAY


At the Worlds, the couple Deanna Stellato Dudek and Maxime Deschamps are among the favorites of the competition. The duo is trained by Josée Picard, whose old training methods have been denounced in recent years.

Inappropriate comments on the weight and figure of skaters, criticism, hasty returns to the ice after major injuries, psychological influence and toxic climate are just a few examples.

Despite her former controversial methods, coach Josée Picard received the support of her skaters and her team.

Photo Agence QMI, JOEL LEMAY

Mme Picard left his position on the board of directors of Patinage Québec in 2022 for “personal reasons”, a week after the revelations of the Newspaper.

No formal complaint has been filed against Picard, which allows him to continue training athletes. Patinage Québec did not want to confirm whether an investigation had been opened.

“The people who are at the World Championships are people who respect the Code of Ethics. It’s a national program. It is Skate Canada which is responsible for this aspect,” explains Dion, recalling that any allegation or misconduct is not managed by senior management, but by an independent committee and that if the organization is not informed, it “cannot act on the denunciation aspect”.

Mme Picard declined the interview request from Newspaper.

The Stellato-Dudek–Deschamps duo admitted not having paid attention to the articles written about their coach, because, in particular, the skater does not know how to read French, she said. She instead reiterated her support for Mme Picard.

“Josée, in one year, allowed us to go from a fairly good team to a team that has the potential to get on a podium at the Worlds. I had a pleasant experience and I think for someone my age [40 ans] and my level of intelligence, she is the perfect coach for me.”


“The problem is silence,” laments Joëlle Carpentier, doctor in social psychology.

Sports specialists are concerned that, despite the accumulation of problems in sport in general, few answers come from sports organizations.

“If we take the actions or inaction of a federation as a whole, it doesn’t matter which one, that’s where it becomes problematic,” explains Carpenter. If everything was clear and rigorous, if the organization lists the actions and intolerances, then we explain how we followed the rules, the procedures, then we could say that the culture of sport is rigid, clear and that There are consequences. The problem is the silence. It is in its entirety that it is problematic. »

“The omertà, the law of silence in sport in general, it is not true that we can think that we can manage things internally,” adds Sylvain Croteau, of the Sport’Aide organization. . This is unfortunately a reflex that sports organizations have. I put it in quotes, there is too much “inbreeding” in the world of sport. There are too many people who know everyone, and who protect themselves. »

Patinage Québec claims to have taken matters into its own hands by multiplying its actions.

“It’s not necessarily following the reports, but really with the objective of safe sport. We know the importance of this better, so we are tackling it more, we have more resources available and we are continuing the training,” maintains Dion.

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