(NEW YORK) — Rhythmic gymnastics, an Olympic sport that raises eyebrows among some critics every four years for its inclusion in the games, is now the center of a cheating scandal that does not involve the sport’s unitard-clad competitors, but its judges.
The New York Times reported that some 60 of the potential judges for the sport, which involves women swirling clubs, hoops, balls, ribbons and ropes, were caught cheating during last year’s elite-level exams to become judges during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Swift action was taken after the alleged cheating was discovered, according to the Times, which reported that an Olympic official was expelled and six others were suspended. Caroline Hunt of the United States was one of the suspended officials.
Lesley King, vice president of communications for USA Gymnastics, confirmed to ABC News that Hunt was suspended because of the circumstances detailed in the Times, but added that the suspension was being appealed.
“USA Gymnastics fully supports Caroline and recognizes her integrity and commitment to fair play and the sport of rhythmic gymnastics,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “USA Gymnastics is planning to appeal the decision on Caroline’s behalf.”
According to the Times, blatant cheating took place at testing sites around Europe and was discovered by The International Gymnastics Federation, which spent months investigating the incidents. Copying of answers from tests, including mistakes, reportedly took place during an exam in Bucharest, Romania, while hundreds of answers were changed on tests taken in Moscow and Spain.
According to the report obtained by the Times, one test even had two different types of handwriting.
Calls placed by ABC News to the International Gymnastics Federation were not immediately returned.
As noted by the Times, a petition was set up on Change.org by Czech national Erik Moers to “ban unfair judging and corruption from our beloved sport.”
Writing on his page after the scandal was revealed, Moers called for further vigilance in the gymnastics community.
“FIG made a historical decision about the scandal during the courses in Bucharest, Moscow and Alicante,” he wrote. “Following the latest developments, I am convinced that we must stay very alert. First steps are put to clean up ‘the mess’ of the last 25 years. Let us make sure it is done properly.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN