Even though they struck a blow to Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding‘s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and his friend Shawn Eckhardt failed in their plan to get Tonya to the Olympic podium in 1994. Instead, she came in eighth… and was exiled by the US Figure Skating Association afterward. So, why exactly did Tonya get banned from skating? The powers that be determined she knew about Jeff and Shawn’s plans to attack Nancy. The decision effectively ended Tonya’s skating career and took her out of the spotlight… until, of course, the biopic I, Tonya was released and Tonya joined the Season 26 cast of Dancing With the Stars.
The infamous attack on Nancy went down on Jan. 6, 1994, at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, MI. After Nancy completed a practice session, a hitman hired by Jeff and Shawn struck her above the knee with a baton. Luckily, Nancy’s leg was only bruised and she made a full recovery. Tonya soon came under suspicion, even as she and Nancy competed at those Olympic games in Lillehammer, Norway. Tonya placed eighth, while Nancy took the silver.
After an investigation and various plea deals, Jeff, Shawn, their hitman, and their getaway driver all served prison time; but Tonya avoided a possible sentence by pleading guilty to the felony of conspiracy to hinder the prosecution. A few months later, however, the US Figure Skating Association banned her for life and stripped her of her 1994 national championship. “By a preponderance of the evidence, the five members of the panel concluded that she had prior knowledge and was involved prior to the incident,” hearing panel chairman William Hybl told The Washington Post.
“[Tonya Harding’s conduct] intentionally undermines the concept of sportsmanship and fair play embodied in the USFSA bylaws and rules and amateur sportsmanship in general,” the panel said in a statement. “Ms. Harding’s actions as they related to the assault on Nancy Kerrigan evidence a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship, and ethical behavior.”
View this post on Instagram
Feels like yesterday we took this picture, time flies when you’re having the TIME OF YOUR LIFE. Today was such a special day. Really overcoming some big hurdles in my life. I can’t wait to get out there and just dance 💃 And thank you @sashafarber1 for being such a good friend and a great partner #TeamAxellent @dancingabc #dwts
It wasn’t until an ABC News interview this January that Tonya admitted to at least some prior knowledge of Jeff and Shawn’s plan to get her on the Olympic team. She said she overheard them discussing how “somebody should be taken out.”
Tonya may be banned from skating, but she has another shot at a championship these days. The 47-year-old is still in the running on Dancing With the Stars Season 26, and she even tied fellow figure skater Mirai Nagasu for the second-best score of Week 1!