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Pelletier, Sale Hold Press Conference

Aired February 16, 2002 - 12:11   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.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you now to Salt Lake City, where a press conference is underway involving the Canadian pair skaters, who are now gold medalists, along with Olympic officials -- let's go to that now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so we have been consistent in our calls to have the investigation continue so we can find out what actually did happen and also to institute the reforms to keep anything like this from happening again, because they didn't get into this sport to sit up here. They got into this sport for the love of skating, and they want it to be all that it can be.

PHILIP HERSH, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Hi. Philip Hersh with the "Chicago Tribune."

This is in no way directed at David and Jamie, because I would rather ask this of a Canadian Olympic Association person, but since you are here, Craig (ph), I guess I'll ask it of you. Yesterday, David made it clear that he was upset that this is detracting from other athletes. At this point, I have to ask you why with the Super G going on and biathlon going on and everything else going on, you're having this press conference at all, which does detract from other athletes?

And No. 2, the rest of the world sees this as just North American bullying. Sadly enough, you Canadians have now been lumped in with we ugly Americans on this issue. And I just wonder how you might respond to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'd like to respond to that. First of all, we are having it, because you guys have basically demanded it. I am fielding something like 150 to 200 phone calls a day from the media, and we would like to move on. I didn't come here to be a publicity agent. I came here to represent Jamie and David, and I would like to start doing that in some way other than talking to the media, no offense, but that's the fact. This press conference is meant to be a fire break. It is meant to say this is the end. They are going to resume their lives. Everybody has gotten every bit of information out of them that they have to give. Now let's move on.

As to they have been lumped in with the ugly Americans, I think that stuff is vastly overplayed. You can (UNINTELLIGIBLE) yourself all you want. This is a major news story, and we are responding in the best fashion that we can. This is not about nationalism. This is about a fair competition. The Olympic spirit says athletes competing at their very best, and the results are what they are. It is clear now that there was collusion and pressure, which prevented that from happening, and this is not the doing of anybody sitting presumably up here or even in this room. We have to respond to that, and it is a chance, an opportunity for the sport to get its act together and become the wonderful sport that it really was meant to be, and that's all we are here for.

QUESTION: Hi, Jamie and David. Kelly O'Donnell (ph) from NCB. Have you spoken with Anton or Elena? Do you plan to? And Anton told the TASS news agency that he thinks a skate-off would be appropriate? What's your reaction to that?

DAVID PELLETIER, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: This is not about us and Anton and Elena. Don't create a situation that doesn't exist. This is not about me and them, or us and them. This is about us getting a fair chance to be judged fairly. That's all I have to say. Anton and Elena are our friends. They are good people. They are great skaters. And yes, I will talk to them if I see them. But first I have to see them, and you know what? I go on with my life, they go on with theirs.

QUESTION: My question was only that when I spoke to Anton and Elena yesterday, they, of course, offered their congratulations to you. But I just wondered if behind the scenes you had made a phone call or if you plan to or if you would have any contact beforehand, since you are all in this unique situation. Not trying to put anything else on. I'm just wondering if you have had any contact or plan to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have talked with Jamie and David about this, and essentially their position is that it was never about the two of them, as he just articulated. And that their relationship with them will continue, as it was before, which is that they have tremendous aspiration for their skating, and they have a cordial relationship. I will say this though, the Russians are proving to be very adept capitalists, and I think that's the real reason why they are interested in a skate off. They have faced each other eight or nine times in international competition. It's not like there is anything new here. So I think that there may be some pecuniary motivation for the desire to have a skate off, and we do not want to turn this into a Nancy and Tonya event. Thank you.

MARK STARR, "NEWSWEEK": Mark Starr from "Newsweek" magazine. I wonder, yesterday when you talked, I'd like to just take you back for a minute, because it was a little sketchy description of how you heard this, how Craig called you, how fast you got over there, what you then knew, when you officially knew and who was in the room. Could you just sort of give some details of how you received this? What time? What (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

PELLETIER: Well, nobody wanted to tell me, because nobody wanted to get our hopes up. And so at 10:30, they said there's a press conference. Come to my hotel room, I went to his hotel room. We turned on the TV by pressing power, and then we put on a channel, and we went like this, and we saw it, and we went "woo hoo." And Jamie cried a little bit. I hugged Craig, and we hugged, we kissed and everything was great. I am not making this stuff up. This is really what happened.

QUESTION: I believe that's what happened. But Craig had already heard the wires. He must have told you there were rumors. I want to know who was in the room. Sorry. It's not a trick question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no. They were on their way over for a meeting. I had heard it. I was actually on the phone with I think David Michaels when it came across the wire. I couldn't reach them. They were on their way there. When they came, I told them what the rumor was, but we've long since learned to wait and see what happens before we react to it. In the room at the time were Jamie, David, Caroline -- oh, yeah, yeah, Jacques, oh, John Cluteay (ph), right, and I think that's it. And as I indicated, once it happened, we jumped up. We all hugged each other, and there was much back slapping going on. And I remember trying to sit down and watch the rest of the press conference, because I knew we were going to be asked questions about things, and we were so busy jumping around that nobody was paying any attention to what was happening on TV.

And then I remembered just flashing on the fact that everybody was on a cell phone talking to somebody, and it seemed like there were many different languages being spoken, and it was like being caught in the middle of a U.N. session. And I was trying to watch the press conference, and then I just gave up. And I jumped into some decent clothes, and over we came, or maybe you don't think my clothes were that decent, but it's what I had.

QUESTION: Dave, you mentioned earlier in the Olympics that you guys had not signed anything to do -- any ice shows this coming off season. You said it was a little bit of a risk, but you wanted to focus on the Olympics and get organized. The risk maybe has paid off more than you expected. I know you have been swamped with offers and things that you are trying to consider now, but maybe to Craig, maybe to David or Jamie, what are your plans? Would you like to go on tour? Do you have any specific plans on what you want to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got kicked under the table. That means it is my answer. Generally speaking, our philosophy has been to bet on our own ability, bet on their ability, really not betting on my ability, because I can't skate. But that has been our philosophy. We decided to wait until after the Olympics. I did not want -- I didn't even speak to Jamie or David for probably two weeks prior to the Olympics, and I didn't see them or speak to them here until about midnight Monday night after the competition. Our philosophy was to let them focus on what they needed to do, and the rest would take care of itself.

It is true that we have not signed with any tours, and we have turned down all endorsement opportunities up until this moment. As soon as I get done being a press agent, I can start being a skating agent, and I will start to explore those options vigorously. That's another reason for this. Hopefully everyone will lose my cell phone number. See ya, bye.

QUESTION: Craig, we spoke with the vice president of the Molson Center in Montreal. He said he would probably throw the Montreal Canadians out on a Saturday night to book these guys. What about the idea of their own tour? Could you do something like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have discussed that. When I say we, I have discussed it with other people. I haven't really discussed it a whole lot with Jamie and David, because you kind of have to come to them with something a little more concrete than that, and I will continue to have those discussions commencing today. But that's interesting information you give us about the Montreal. It's not the Forum. What it is called now? The Moslon Center. Yes, that is something we'll look at.

HERSH: Craig, over here again. Philip Hersh of the "Chicago Tribune" again.

Anton Sikharulidze told me yesterday we have been sitting here like dogs. I'm unhappy. We haven't been able to enjoy anything. I just wonder what -- wouldn't it be a strong gesture of sportsmanship -- if I can reach Anton Sikharulidze, so can you and so can the Canadian Olympic Association. What would have been the harm of having your skaters call and say, we are sorry that you got involved in this, you know, whatever? I mean, just to make that gesture?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phil, their relationship with Anton and Elena, I will say again, is exactly what it was before. And to suddenly embrace in some phony, oh, we love each other, isn't this wonderful that we all have a gold medal would be phony. And the best thing about these two is that they are not phony. They like Anton and Elena. They greatly admire and respect their skating. That continues, but this isn't going to become a love fest, and it isn't going to become Nancy and Tonya.

QUESTION: Hi, Tasha (ph) from the "Boston Globe." I'm just curious. Can you give us an idea about some of the endorsement offers that you received? I know that in times like these, you have to catch the moment, and if you wait too long I don't know if people will be interested. So I am just curious. What kind of offers have you gotten so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you that yes, we have gotten offers. And I'm not going to describe what they are, because I haven't even responded to most of them yet, and I don't think they would particularly like them flashed all over the world. I'm going to take my job one step at a time. The first thing to do is to try to get through this furor. And you are right about the timing that it is important to begin things sooner, but we'd rather do them right than early. So we are looking to secure their future, and I think that's true of anybody. This is after all their profession. It has become an all consuming profession, and we will do our best to ensure their future in an appropriate manner.

QUESTION: Brian Levinson (ph) from The Associated Press over here. Embrace or no embrace, Anton Sikharulidze has been saying he feels like he's been made out to be the villain of the Games. He feels like everywhere he goes people are looking at him as if to say how could you steal this medal. So I'm wondering, David and Jamie, how do you feel about that?

PELLETIER: Well, we are pretty sad he feels like this. I'm not going to tell him how to feel, but this is how he feels. I'm sorry that he feels like this if it's true, first of all. I would have to talk to him. But once again, he's got nothing to do with this, you know? This is not his fault, this is not our fault. We know what did happen. It's unfortunate that he feels like this, and when I will talk to him, you know, I will have this chat and make him understand that he doesn't have to feel bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We have time for two last questions. A front here and in the back here.

LIZ ROBBINS, "NEW YORK TIMES": Hi. OK. This for Jamie. Liz Robbins from "The New York Times". Jamie, how hard is it going to be to avoid any awkward feelings, when you do see Elena and Anton?

JAMIE SALE, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: How awkward?

QUESTION: How hard would it be to avoid any awkward feelings, because of what he said and the situation?

SALE: Well, like our agent said, I think everybody knows us, and we are real people. And as far as our relationship with Elena and Anton has been in the past, we've always said good luck to them before we stepped on the ice. We have always said congratulations. I'm not going to feel awkward. Like again, we didn't do anything, they didn't do anything wrong. This is not about the skaters. And we have control over the way we feel, and they have control over the way they feel. And it's not our business to be involved in their personal feelings or anything and vice versa. So we're all doing our best, and that's all I can say for that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question here up front.

QUESTION: David, you described the six months before the Olympics as the worst of your life. I'm wondering if you can describe the last six days.

PELLETIER: Well, it's -- I'm trying to deal with it the best I can. You know, I feel like I'm a target here every time I step on this stage, and you know, I've been doing this and, you know, avoiding bullets. But it's getting harder and harder, because this is turning to be something between us and the Russians, and like Jamie said, she said it perfectly, this is not about the skaters.

And the last few days, I would be lying to say that I didn't -- yes, I did feel a little bit of guilt for what happened, but I didn't ask for that. And I don't have to be to feel guilty. And I am not the criminal, even though when I stepped out of this room yesterday, I felt like one. But all I ask for is my life to be normal again, but I'm not naive and stupid and think this is going to happen in the next few days. But I know it will come down and life will go on. QUESTION: But why do you feel guilty?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry that was the last question. We are now going to be moving on to live interviews. Craig and Lori (ph) will be staying up front, so if you'd like to ask questions from the front of the table, you are more than welcome to do so. The photo opportunities will be done after the scrum, so sit tight and we'll be right back.

WHITFIELD: You are watching live coverage from Salt Lake City, a press conference there involving David, Pelletier and Jamie Sale, the Canadian pair skaters, who are now being awarded gold medals after their fight for justice, in the words of David Pelletier. They also responded in that press conference to criticism and questions that their fight for gold and their win for gold has been distracting to other athletes and to the other competitions there. Their response from the couple there, this is not about nationalism, but a fairness in sport.

Neither David Pelletier nor Jamie Sale say that they have talked to the Russian pair skaters, Elena or Anton, but they say they would welcome the opportunity if that does arise. Still no details though on exactly how Pelletier and Sale will be receiving their gold medals, what kind of ceremony might be taking place in the near future.

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