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Canadian Pairs Skaters Awarded Gold Medal

Aired February 15, 2002 - 13:59   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A few moments ago, you saw it live here on CNN courtesy of NBC and the International Olympic Committee, this Canadian pair here, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier have been awarded a gold medal for their performance Monday night in pairs figure skating. The Russian team, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, also will maintain their gold medal as well. The announcement came down a short time ago from Salt Lake City.

Here is the head of the skating union when that announcement was made.


JACQUES ROGGE, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: We received an official proposal from the International Skating Union to award a gold medal to Sale and Pelletier. The executive order of the IOC agreed and a gold medal will be awarded to the Canadian pair.


HEMMER: My apologies, head the Olympic committee there sitting right next to the head of the skating union. The judge in question here has been suspended. She is from France, a French judge. Her name is Marie Le Gougne and her behavior and ruling essentially called into question. According to the head of the skating union, evidence there the French judge was, quote, "responsible for misconduct", the words from the skating union a short time ago.

Back to Salt Lake right now, Brian Cazanueve is with us. He's a writer for "Sports Illustrated". Brian, you there? Can you hear me OK?


HEMMER: Tell us, we're trying to get to the bottom of one specific item here. Why is it that the French judge was investigated but the Russian judge was not?

CAZANUEVE: Well, there's a thought that this might have been a quid pro quo vote. The ice dance competition begins tonight. And there is a French team, Anissina and Peizerat, which is one of the leading teams in contention for the gold medal. It's not an open and shut case. There's about three or four teams that have a chance to win. And the thought is that perhaps the French judge might have been in collusion with another judge to award good marks to the Russian pair in the pairs event in return for good marks for the French ice dance team that competes starting tonight. There really is not a high-level Russian ice dance team in that competition with a chance to win the gold medal, and so, that's why people are thinking that, perhaps, the French were going to receive favorable treatment in the next competition.

HEMMER: Also, Brian, is it possible there is no evidence of collusion between the Russian judge and the French judge. That's a possibility, too, I would think, right?

CAZANUEVE: Well, yes. That's the thought. I don't think there's any evidence of that, per se. For years, there has been talk of back-room dealings involving quid pro quo votes in figure skating. If one particular country has a strong competitor in one event, another country has strong competitor in another event, officials from both federations, rumor would have it, would get together and say, OK, well, you help us out, we'll help you out, within reason.

The problem, of course, in the pairs event, was that it really went beyond reason. I think everybody who was there saw a superior performance by Sale and Pelletier and saw the Russians, who were generally on the same level, not have their best performance and that got a lot of people speculating as to what might have happened.

HEMMER: Brian, what is your sense on what was driving this story? Was it simply the Olympic Games and the IOC, or was it, like some have suggested, outside forces, including the media with a lot of pressure and a lot of attention focused on this subject?

CAZANUEVE: Well, certainly the magnitude of the event had something to do with it. This has never happened before publicly at the Olympic Games. The discussion of a scandal hasn't happened before at the Olympic Games. I think the reason it got resolved, actually, was that the International Olympic Committee had Jacques Rogge put a lot of pressure on the ISU and said, this can't be business as usual.

Ottavio Cinquanta, who is the ISU federation head, is really from the old school. He's from a very powerful federation. They don't like a lot of change. They don't like a lot of upheaval and Rogge has sort of positioned himself as a reformer, as somebody who will make things fair. And, you know, he may have been doing this for show. He may have been doing it out of fairness. But definitely, his influence got the thing moving and got it moving quickly because other situations that have needed to be resolved, including the one you referenced earlier about the synchronized swimming competition in 1992, have taken a lot longer. That took a whole year to get resolved. This got done before the next competition.

HEMMER: And Bud Greenspan reminded us the '72 Summer Games actually, with the then Soviets and Americans on the basketball floor, took well over a year to be ultimately resolved. I'm curious to know this, this is my question of the day. I want you to take a stab at it. If you were going to change figure skating and try to remove some of the subjectivity from it, how would you do it? How would you change the scoring? CAZANUEVE: I think I would do three things. First of all, take hockey for example. The National Hockey League officials are here to officiate the hockey games. In the National Hockey League, there's a man named Andy Van Hellemond, who is the overseer of referees and linesmen he. And grades them every single game and he gives them video specifics. He sends them video clips to say, well, you missed this penalty, that was a bad call or this was a good decision. There really isn't a systematic review for these officials, over and over again to say, hey, that was a two-footed double axel that you missed or this lay-back spin was in a bad position. Obviously, this is not something that should be done externally. It should be done internally. But there isn't a consistent, internal review.

The other thing is there really does need to be an outside body, whether it's from the IOC or whether it's an independent arbitration panel that can come in and not look at skating specifics, but can look at allegations of, for example, vote swapping and wrongdoing when there is an allegation that's this serious.

The other thing is that when there is a skater who advances to the final group, the final six, for example, of a long program, the judges from that particular host country are allowed to stay in there and judge. I think you want the best judges available to judge a competition, but it wouldn't be a bad idea instead of having nine judges available, to have 11 or 12 and then pull one or two from the panel when judges from that -- or when skaters from that particular country have qualified for the final group. I think those three things would be big help.

HEMMER: All interesting suggestions. Wonder if they will act on it. We will see from here on out. Brian Cazanueve from "Sports Illustrated" there in Salt Lake City. Thank you, Brian. Good to talk to you, again.

CAZANUEVE: Thank you.

HEMMER: All right. In a moment, we do anticipate hearing in that same room from the two Canadian skaters involved, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. Back inside that room and back on the phone, John Giannone now joins us. We do anticipate, John, any moment now, right?

JOHN GIANNONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, any moment there. They're saying top of the hour. Sometimes it runs two or three minutes late, but they've been pretty prompt. Indeed, Sale and Pelletier will be on the stand as will some Russian -- some Canadian delegates and also Sally Rehorick, who is a Canadian Figure Skating Association delegate and also a figure skating judge. And if you remember, she's the women who, on Tuesday, came out and said that she didn't want to judge ever again because of what had happened.

Now, these are the people who have been fighting tooth and nail behind the scenes and in front of the cameras in the last three days to do what they say is the fair and equitable thing, which is to award the gold medal, so you can imagine this will be a very upbeat press conference once it begins. HEMMER: Hey, John, listen, pick up on this point that Jacques Rogge made, the head of the IOC during that briefing an hour ago. He said the Games have been fantastic and he wants to put the focus back on the Games. And truly, at this point, it appears that the organizers in Salt Lake have done an outstanding job. Curious to know what you're witnessing and experiencing on your own out there?

GIANNONE: Agreed, I think that traffic is fair the one day of the men's downhill, where many people arrived an hour and a half after some of the best skiers had gone. Traffic has not really been an issue. They're shuttling people through and around the city in the outlying venues fairly well. And traffic is always the big storyline at any Olympic Games. Certainly, security has been the story of this Olympic Games and security so far has been airtight. Any instances or problems that have arised have been squelched very quickly. So, from that regard, from a logistic regard, it's been a terrific Olympics so far and certainly, as in any Olympics, some interesting storylines have developed, and, unfortunately, this has been the one that has overshadowed all the other.

HEMMER: On the medal count, though -- losing my objectivity now -- the Americans have done pretty darn well, haven't they?

GIANNONE: They have. And the thing about it -- tempered a little bit -- they've done their best work in a sport that they invented and that they fought real hard to become a medal sport in the Olympic Games, and I think that was done partly 10 years ago so that the Americans would have a better showing in the Olympic Games. I know one writer in particular who is always skeptical said that if weren't for snowboarding, we would be France right now. But I know that there is anticipation coming up with the men's ice hockey tournament that begins...

HEMMER: All right, John, I think we lost him at the end there. John Giannone by telephone there inside the room there. And, yes, I think we lost John, did we?

OK, John Giannone again, thanks for standing by with us there in Salt Lake City.




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