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International Skating Union President Holds Press Conference

Aired February 13, 2002 - 14:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back to Salt Lake now and John Giannone, who is watching and gauging the latest reaction on this figure skating mess. John, what are you finding out?

JOHN GIANNONE, CNN/SI CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, it was a contentious and a defensive and a highly charged 75-minute press conference. An overflow crowd in the biggest room at the International Media Center. Octavio Cinquanta, the International Skating Union president, it took him almost all of the 75 minutes to finally admit that it was the main referee, an American man named Mr. Fenick (ph), who made the allegation of impropriety after Monday's competition.

Now, Octavio Cinquanta was deliberate in saying that it was not an allegation of vote swapping, which has been the widely spread allegation from the media here in the last two days, but he did say the allegation was made by the American main referee, the person who oversees the entire competition.

Now Octavio Cinquanta said that he confronted the referee in question or the judge in question, didn't say who it was, but it's widely assumed to be the French judge. And what Cinquanta said was that they're now left with two sides of the story. They have an allegation. They have a denial, and it's now the ISU's job to flush out all the information and find out exactly what went on.

HEMMER: John, listen, based on history in this sport, there have been questions in the past about collusion between judges. Have you been able to gauge just yet if there's any evidence of that?

GIANNONE: Well, you know, that's the important thing, Bill, and that's what Octavio Cinquanta was trying to say, is that there is no firm evidence. And he in fact, at one point, raised his voice, got very animated, and he said, show me the evidence. Right now, all we have is an allegation, is an accusation. Show me the evidence. When I see the evidence, I will act. But I can't act until then. But, of course, trying to prove a negative is one of the most difficult things to do in a situation like this.

HEMMER: That's right. And, John, I know you talking to analysts out there and I want you to jump on this if you can. I heard the most plausible explanation I have to date earlier this morning from a former judge who said the technical aspects of the Russian performance was far more complex than the Canadians. Is that holding water in Salt Lake?

GIANNONE: It isn't among the people who aren't directly involved. I know the ISU president, Mr. Cinquanta, says this is a subjective sport and anytime you have subjective decisions being made, there is certainly a lot of room for discussion and a lot of room for disagreement. But he did say that, you know, it bears repeating that last year at the World Championships, the same two pairs, Canadians and Russian pairs, skated in the final. They both had very difficult programs. The Canadian team won, that World Championships was in Vancouver. And as Octavio Cinquanta pointed out, he never received one piece of criticism from anybody, American, Canadian or Russian.

HEMMER: And, listen, John, I know the medals don't go back. You can't reverse what happened on Monday. But if the sport were to change the way it judges today, how would we see those changes?

GIANNONE: Well, you know, and that's something that Cinquanta talked about as well. There is a meeting of the council of the International Skating Union on February 18, which is Monday. He said he will not move up that meeting even though the ice dancing competition is Friday. And that, of course, caused a lot of the media people to bristle. He did say at that meeting that the ISU will discuss ways in which they can maybe take some of the power out of the judges' hands and try and put it a less subjective light.

But as he said, there is nothing you can do when you're dealing with a sport that doesn't deal with how fast somebody goes, or how well somebody performs. It's still all about how a certain judge sees things a certain way. And as he said, when you have that, you certainly always have the possibility, albeit, as he says, a very small, one of an impropriety taking place.

HEMMER: John, thanks. John Giannone by telephone there, watching things in Salt Lake. Certainly, it is the buzz again today.

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