Professional violinist and want-to-be ski racer Vanessa-Mae has suffered a four-year ban from the sport for participating and benefiting from fixed races that allowed her to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Mae, who was born in Singapore and raised in Britain, has sold 10 million records as a violinist. The famed musician competed in Sochi for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn, the surname of her Thai father. She placed dead last among 67 racers who finished both runs of giant slalom, more than 50 seconds slower than race winner Tina Maze. Now, her qualification for the 2014 Games has been proved a complete sham.
After considering written submissions and testimony on Oct. 3, the FIS Hearing Panel found the results of the four ladies giant slalom races that took place on January 18-19 at Krvavec, Slovenia were manipulated, resulting in the miscalculation of FIS Points that do not reflect the true performance of the competitors that participated in those events — in particular, the points awarded to Mae, according to the FIS report.
The races were organized at the request of Mae’s management, through the Thai Olympic Committee in its capacity as the FIS member national ski association. These competitions were the last opportunity for Mae to achieve the necessary FIS points to qualify for the Olympic Winter Games.
In July, the Slovenian Ski Association announced it had discovered evidence indicating that the January races were “fixed at the behest of Thai ski officials to meet her qualifying criteria for Sochi.” Slovenian Ski Association director Jurij Zurej indicated that the suspected irregularities included falsification of rankings, race times, and race dates.
“Those who have been sanctioned have been sanctioned for good reason,” FIS President Gian Franco Kasper told The Associated Press. “At first we were laughing when we heard it. But then we realized it’s quite a serious thing.”
The FIS Hearing Panel found the following:
• The results of two giant slalom races on Jan. 19 included a competitor who was not present at, and did not participate in the Krvavec Competitions.
• Another competitor was placed second in one race despite the fact she fell. Her time is understood to have been adjusted afterward by more than 10 seconds.
• At least one competitor started away from the starting gate outside the automatic timing wand that was manually opened by the starter when she was already on the course.
• A previously retired competitor with the best FIS points in the competition took part for the sole purpose of lowering the penalty to the benefit the participants in the races.
• The weather conditions were so bad that no regular race could be held and “any comparable competition in Slovenia would have been cancelled,” according to the competition referee.
• The races courses were not changed for the second runs as is required by the FIS rules.
• Roughly 23 competitors participated in the two races held on Jan. 18, however at least two competitors on the official results were not in attendance.
• Only eight competitors were on the start list for the two races on Jan. 19 and only six achieved a result.
The Hearing Panel has issued the following sanctions:
• Borut Hrobat (SLO), Chief of Race, two year ban from participation in any FIS sanctioned events worldwide
• Fabio De Cassan (ITA), FIS Technical Delegate, one year ban from participation in any FIS sanctioned events worldwide
• Matiaz Goltez (SLO), Chief of Timing, one year ban from participation in any FIS sanctioned events worldwide
• Vlado Makuc (SLO), Referee, one year ban from participation in any FIS sanctioned events worldwide
• Uros Sinkovec (SLO), Starter, one year ban from participation in any FIS sanctioned events worldwide
• Vanessa Vanakorn (THA), Athlete, four year ban from participation in any FIS sanctioned events worldwide
The FIS said it has informed the International Olympic Committee, which can disqualify Vanessa-Mae from the Sochi Olympics. The IOC declined to comment on details of the case until possible appeals are completed.
“Should the judgment be confirmed the IOC will act on this in the framework of its policy of protecting the clean athletes, with zero tolerance towards the manipulation of results and any related corruption,” the Olympic body said in a statement.
Mae has 21 days to appeal the decision.