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Canadian Pairs Figure Skaters Awarded Gold Medal

Aired February 15, 2002 - 14:11   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: If you've been with us, you know the news by now. The Canadian figure skating pairs have been awarded a gold medal. They will get that sometime next week, possibly on Thursday. And we do anticipate hearing from David Pelletier and Jamie Sale live in Salt Lake coming up any moment now, possibly within the next four or five minutes, so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime though, going to go back to Salt Lake. Mark Lund is with the "International Figure Skating" magazine. He's our guest right now. Mark, good afternoon to you.


HEMMER: Listen, I have got to think this is as shocking to you as it is to us. I mean, after all, this is your business.

LUND: You know, it's completely shocking and absolutely unprecedented. The International Skating Union does not have this in their rulebook to make this decision. So they are certainly going to new territory here today, but I think it's the right territory.

HEMMER: They don't have this rule?

LUND: No. This rule is not in the rulebook, where they can just discount this judge and her scores for something to happen after the fact. However, they have made this ruling. They have made this decision. And they are really setting -- they are writing new law as we go along.

HEMMER: OK, because what I was reading earlier today, in fact, there is a rule in the rulebook governing situations like this. You've got the alternate judge you can always use as well. And in cases of impropriety, things like this can happen, am I wrong?

LUND: No, you're not wrong, impropriety during the event. This was something that was largely discussed after the event, as we were told. However, the one thing that is new today is that they've never just taken a judge's scoring out of a game like this, and now we have a tie. So that's what's different today and this is the new rule that's being brought.

HEMMER: How well do you know this French judge? Do you know here at all, Mark? LUND: No, I don't know her at all personally. I do know that she was a skater for some time in the 1970s. But other than that, we know very little about her. We do know that she's left Salt Lake City. She's gone back to France. And I know we've sent a letter to her asking her for an interview. Who knows if we'll get it.

HEMMER: Yes, we will see on that. What do you know about the other judges? They are voluntary. They give their services free of charge?

LUND: Right. Well the judges do work on a volunteer basis. You know, they have trained to decades to receive these Olympic appointments. And, you know, certainly it's a subjective sport. They're entitled to their opinion on who they think is best at that moment. And the other judges aren't in question right now because there is no impropriety.

HEMMER: Right. Mark, what do you make of -- and this question was fired off a lot -- what is the evidence against her? I'm not asking you to read between the lines here and talk about stuff we don't know, but what are the possibilities here, Mark?

LUND: Well, I think it was very simple. I think the French federation really told this judge how to vote. The French federation very quiet right now for obvious reasons. And a judge is not going to act alone. We confirmed this with two members of the International Skating Union yesterday. This judge was acting with someone, most definitely the French federation and I think the Russian federation. The International Skating Union's investigation is ongoing. I can assure everyone of that.

HEMMER: Mark, if that's the case, why not look at the Russian judge, too, then?

LUND: I'm sorry. Can you repeat your question?

HEMMER: Why not look at the Russian judge, too, then if that's the opinion you're offering here today?

LUND: Well, certainly, they're looking at all the judges on the panel probably to make sure everyone is in line. But the evidence pointed directly at the French judge. It was immediately so President Cinquanta and the council could make the decision they did to severely suspend her and her marks.

HEMMER: But what we were told during that briefing is that the Russian judge was not examined.

LUND: That's what we were told, but I can assure you that the International Skating Union is looking at this judge and other judges on the panel as well just to make sure everything is clear.

HEMMER: You got it, fair point. Hey, thanks, Mark. Mark Lund, enjoy the rest of the Games as best you can, all right?

LUND: Thank you. HEMMER: Good deal.

Off to Park City now, just east of Salt Lake, here is Phil Jones who has been talking and walking there on the streets. What do you have, Phil?

PHIL JONES, CNN/SI CORRESPONDENT: Well, I heard your conversation there with Mark Lund and I think the confusion over the votes for first place needs to be addressed here, Bill, because there were five judges who voted first for the Russians and four judges who put the Canadians in first place. Now they've discarded the French judge which means it's 4-4, basically canceling that French judge's vote, making it a tie. The 10th judge I have heard you talk about, who is the alternate, I don't think could actually come in and vote after the event, as far as I understand it, and that basically, the one vote from the French judge who has been sanctioned has been expunged from the record, making it a 4-4 tie.

They wouldn't necessarily need to go back then and tally up the votes and work out who got what in both artistic impression and technical merit because all they need to look at was the placement marks. Four judges went for the Russians. Four judges went for the Canadians. So they are left with a tie. Both get the gold medal, Bill.

HEMMER: And there's a silver that will go unclaimed at this point. What are you gauging from reaction there in Park City right now, Phil?

JONES: I think people are generally pleased with this outcome because, you know, they thought justice hadn't been done in the first place. The people I have been talking to around here were a little bit surprised, to be honest, that this decision came through now. All the talk was that the International Skating Union council meeting wouldn't take place until Monday and that we might not have the issue resolved until Monday.

The fact that it has come through now is something of a surprise to people. But, by and large, they're happy with this outcome. They think it's a fair result. One person did say to me, though, that she's wondering how the Russian pair are feeling right now because it maybe has taken the shine off their gold medal moment.

HEMMER: Hey, Phil, there is a column on the front page of the "USA Today" that might help go a long way in sorting out some of this mess here. I am going to read a paragraph here, Phil, going to get you to respond to it because this goes along with what we're just discussing right here. Talking about the substitute judge: "The substitute scores the competition just as any of the other nine judges, but those marks are not made public and are used only in the event of the illness of another judge before or during the event or for misconduct by a judge during the event."

The ISU, the International Skating Union, that rulebook is silent about whether a judge can be removed for misconduct after the event. But clearly, in this case, we heard it from the horse's mouth. There apparently has been misconduct of some sort and the judge was taken off.

JONES: It seems like the rules have been changing day by day here, doesn't it, because the ISU said a couple of days ago, at least Ottavio Cinquanta said in his first press conference, that it would be very difficult to reach the outcome that we have now reached. Misconduct or no misconduct, they said they could sanction a judge, but not necessarily change the result. He said it wasn't impossible, but that it was extremely difficult. Obviously, that's changed radically over the last couple of days.

I'm just wondering now, then, that 10th judge, if after the misconduct charge has been made by the French judge, also voted for the Russians maybe. And, you know, that would have left us with the same scenario.

HEMMER: We could talk about this for another week.

JONES: Yes, exactly.

HEMMER: Listen, if we were ice skaters, we might be able to figure it out, but we're not.

JONES: We're not, but we're trying to make the best of it.

HEMMER: That we are. Thank you, Phil. Phil Jones in Park City.

Back overseas right now. Matthew Chance back on the telephone, I believe, with us once again. Matthew, what have you gauged since the 40 minutes in which we talked last?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still no reaction officially here, of course. The vast majority of the figure skating officials from the Russian federation are over in Salt Lake City. I can tell you, though, Bill, the tone of the media coverage here in Russia has been quite vignant at the scale of this scandal, especially as it has been reported in the American media. Pretty indignant here that that question mark has been placed over what the vast majority of ordinary Russian feel is a clean-cut, fair and square win for their skaters.

Now, the fact the French judge in the competition from misconduct will be -- has been, you know, dismissed or suspended, rather, for misconduct, might come as particular surprise here, not least because many of the Russian newspapers and national papers have gone to great lengths in pages on comments on the subject to dismiss this ridiculous -- any possibility that misconduct could have been behind this kind of decision. They're simply putting it down to sour grapes, Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Matthew, thanks. Matthew Chance by telephone there in Moscow gauging reaction there from the Russian perspective.

In a moment, we will hear from David Pelletier and Jamie Sale. They will before the microphones in Salt Lake City. You will see it live once again right here.




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