Skate-Gate's non-stop turns catch attention of judges both near and far

January 20, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Notes From Skate-Gate (now that Lawrence Walsh has wrapped up his Iran-Contra probe with such dispatch, he might want to tackle this beauty):

* Yeow, talk about a cheap shot. No sooner did they lower the boom on Jeff Gillooly in the form of a conspiracy charge in the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga yesterday when our friends across the pond, the icy set conducting the European Figure Skating Championships in Copenhagen, jumped on the situation here with fangs bared.

"It would never happen in France," Eugene Peizerat, secretary general of the French Ice Skating Federation, said of the soon-to-be-TV movie dealing with the rough and tumble world of big-time figure skating.

"We don't think that way here," Peizerat continued, not bothering to explain what he meant by "that way." He indicated the sordid affair surrounding the National Championships in Detroit two weeks ago was a "money-related problem and it's gone commercial over [here]."

Right, Eugene. Let me see, wasn't there a massive soccer scandal that rocked France just a couple of months ago regarding the fixing of games in the European Cup, the continent's most prestigious football competition?

* Another of the interesting reactions from abroad was turned in by a gent named Didier Gailhaguet, former coach of Surya Bonaly, three-time European champion. He said it didn't surprise him that a skater might end up the target of another's skater's entourage.

"There are so much jealousies, unbelievable passions and money involved. We are looking at millionaires on the ice out there," he said.

And we all know what can happen when the old folding green is out there on the table.

Swiping the skates of a competitor or just making sure they are "misplaced" or a gouge shows up on a blade is not unknown even at a minor competition on the novice level.

* If, as Don Hewitt, executive producer of "60 Minutes" says, "I did this for Tonya's own good," describing a segment on Harding that ran the other night, it's apparent the skater doesn't need any more friends. Hewitt said the piece created "sympathy. It showed Tonya as a human being."

Actually, it didn't, being little more than a play on the old (alleged) physical abuse as a child theme that seems to get dragged up incessantly these days. Imagine Tonya's mom hitting an admittedly strong-willed and sometimes unruly school drop-out with a hairbrush. How devastating.

* If the U.S. Figure Skating Association would even consider dropping Harding from the Olympic team short of her having knowledge of or being involved in the injuring of Kerrigan, Ms. Harding probably would end up owning the association and the USOC to boot.

Besides, imagine the screaming of CBS, which has been drooling for days about the ratings bonanza it is looking forward to with already-popular figure skating so much a part of the news for days.

* Part of the affidavit submitted by a deputy of the Multnomah Sheriff's Department supporting the charge against the defendants says, "After the attack [on Kerrigan], [Shane] Stant attempted to exit through a plexiglass door which was locked. Stant had to break through the door using his head as a ram."

This is very strange since Stant is assumed still to have had the metal baton (used to injure Kerrigan) with him until it was discarded in a Dumpster outside the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

* If indictment for conspiracy wasn't such serious business, one would guess that this entire caper was authored by Jimmy Breslin as a sequel to his uproarious "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."

As if the records of phone conversations and money transfers don't leave a clear enough trail of what was being conspired, there's alleged hit-man Stant taking bus rides from Boston to Detroit, an additional person (Derrick Smith) being brought in to drive the getaway car (probably to the bus station) and the alleged brains of the outfit, bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, confessing the first chance he gets.

* The pity is that the boys in the Multnomah Sheriff's Department pTC were so efficient and quick in their investigation and the issuance of warrants. Given another couple of days, Oliver Stone could have swooped into Oregon and had everyone from the CIA to the mob to pro-Castro elements to Dick Button to a couple of companies that make ladies skates involved in the conspiracy.

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