By ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun
Say this much about Brian Williams. When it comes to Olympic athletes and drugs, his disdain knows no borders.
Even a Canadian isn't safe at these Sydney Games.
Viewers had to be squirming in their seats last night as the CBC's prime-time host grilled equestrian rider Eric Lamaze about the cocaine use that led to his lifetime ban from the sport -- a ban that Ottawa arbitrator Ed Ratushny overturned yesterday.
Lamaze and his fans are no doubt happy he appears headed to the competition ring in Sydney.
But Williams, who has never hidden his disgust for drug use in sport, pulled out the heavy artillery in a riveting line of questioning that made Jim Gray seem like a softballer by comparison.
Questions, it should be noted, that athletes, journalists and Canadians back home are asking themselves in the wake of this incredible turnaround.
Like, for example:
- "Does this mean if you compete here, you virtually get away with no penalty?"
- And this closer: "Does this not say to take drugs, if you've got a good excuse, it doesn't matter? Does this render all drug testing irrelevant?"
For those who think Williams' line of questioning came across as overly strong, know this much: Lamaze was given more than a fair opportunity to state his feelings about the decision, and tell his side of the story, during a morning interview with the CBC's Ron MacLean.
CBC also got comment from Lamaze's lawyer, Tim Danson. Dr. Andrew Pipe from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport was in studio last night. All the bases were covered.
When it comes to drugs, though, Williams is nothing if not consistent.
Sunday night, he chided a decision allowing members of the Romanian weightlifting team -- who had been booted from the Games -- to get back in by paying a fine.
"Now we've got a repechage for drug use," Williams said Sunday, using a rowing metaphor. "You pay a fine and you get a second chance."
Not with Williams, you don't.
THE OVERNIGHT SHIFT: Best live feature seen so far in Sydney by these eyes -- TSN's look at the media and fan frenzy surrounding Australian swim hero Ian (The Thorpedo) Thorpe. The thumbs up go to reporter Sheri Hargrave, who went behind the scenes at the big Thorpe-Pieter van den Hoogenband 200-metre freestyle showdown early yesterday on a big outdoor screen (that courtesy of Gerry Dobson's Sportscentral report last night).
DOWN UNDUH TALK: If Saturday night's numbers are any indication, Americans aren't warming up to NBC's taped Olympics. A show featuring the day-old women's triathlon earned a 13.1 rating, lower than first Saturdays for three previous NBC Olympics (including Seoul in 1988, a similar time zone). Up in these parts, we're hardly surprised.