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The Difficulty of Watching Pound Throw His Weight Around

By Sally Jenkins
Friday, August 13, 2004; Page D10

ATHENS

That phony careerist and human necktie Dick Pound should promptly remove himself from public life and quit trying to enlarge his reputation by wrecking the reputations of others. But unfortunately it appears we will have to shove him forcibly from the Olympic stage while he is still grabbing at the free shrimp from the VIP buffet.

For all those who haven't heard his officious and highly prejudiced bellowing, Pound is the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. He's the guy who's supposed to oversee a body devoted to the ethical competition of the Olympics. And yet Pound commits an ethical violation almost every time he opens his mouth, and expresses another self-serving, sorehead and headline-seeking opinion. He's the biggest scandal here.


Dick Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is rarely at a loss for words -- even during ongoing investigations. (Darron Cummings -- Aocciated Press)

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It is plainly unethical and prejudicial for a head of WADA to make pronouncements about an ongoing and supposedly confidential investigation such as BALCO, and the guilt or innocence of those involved. And yet there was Pound on the eve of the Opening Ceremonies, accusing USA Track and Field of being "largely responsible" for doping and again attacking Marion Jones by name.

Jones has been his favorite punching bag for months, despite the fact that evidence against her is less than persuasive and she has not been formally accused of anything. "If she's innocent, she comes here and that's fine," Pound said Thursday. "And if she's not and comes here and has made all those statements, it's going to be a dark and deep hole into which she goes. It would be a shame."

Pound loves to suggest that Jones is guilty until proven guilty, because she hangs around with the wrong people, meaning her husbands and boyfriends. Now, that's funny coming from him. Dick Pound has spent his entire adult life hanging around with one of the dirtiest and most corrupt organizations on the earth: the International Olympic Committee.

Who exactly is Dick Pound? He was an Olympic swimmer for Canada in 1960 and he has been a relentless ladder climber ever since. For many years he was the right hand of that man beloved of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. He helped deliver the Olympics to NBC for an entire generation, and he was Samaranch's handpicked successor. But he became increasingly unpopular in the IOC because of his role as an ethics officer, and Jacques Rogge instead replaced Samaranch. In other words, Pound is a permanently marginalized (and possibly embittered) guy who was passed up.

Ever since then, Pound has been trying to become important in the Olympics again, and his chief way of doing this is to style himself the savior of purity in the Games, by accusing anyone and everyone of doping and corruption, whether there is proper evidence or not. Pound's attack on the USATF was the sort of baseless and distorted crack that has become typical of him, issued to satisfy his craving for attention. There's no doubt that USATF has had its problems. But USATF has nothing to do with drug testing or enforcement. That is the job of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, as Pound well knows, since he oversees USADA as head of WADA. "Mr. Pound is well known for his colorful remarks," USATF spokeswoman Jill Greer said in response to his remarks. "I would hope that as head of the World Anti-Doping Agency he would not prejudge any athlete." But that's all Pound does -- judge.

Pound has become known as the bullying head of an organization of controversial legal standards. The family of banned Australian cyclist Mark French has complained that even Saddam Hussein received better legal treatment. Among Pound's remarks and insinuations: Anyone who takes exception to his methods or those of WADA is either a guilty athlete, or part of their team. "Everyone else thinks we're doing exactly the right thing," Pound told the Canadian Press.

No, actually, they don't. Jon Drummond said during the U.S. trials, "Find out about Dick Pound and why he's coming down so hard on the United States. He's the WADA chair, he's the big man on campus. The athletes are doing what they're supposed to do. Dick sits in his office and passes out accusations."

Why is Pound beating up on the U.S. track federation, when it doesn't even control American drug testing? Why is he screaming?

Pound was vice president of the IOC and a representative of the Canadian delegation in 1988 when his countryman, Ben Johnson, was stripped of his gold medal for testing positive for steroid use. Pound was a public defender of Johnson's, arguing that he was essentially innocent, had been manipulated into taking an illegal drug unwittingly. "I'm certain he didn't know," Pound said. "I don't think he has the faintest idea what it's all about." He also said that Johnson had a "guilty body" but not the guilty intent that would have convicted him in a court of law. Johnson later confessed he had used steroids since 1981.

God forbid an American should defend a U.S. track athlete to WADA in such terms. As it happens, the United States has made strides against doping in track. The Olympic lab under the direction of the devoted and hard-working Don Catlin has made critical progress in identifying several designer drugs. What has Dick Pound ever done, except excuse Ben Johnson? As far as I can tell, Pound has committed exactly one act of any substance as the head of WADA: He moved the organization to Montreal, conveniently for him and, perhaps, his business pals. Is that an unfair accusation? Well.

Pound is also an author. He has a book out, called "Inside the Olympics." More properly, it should be entitled, "Big Events in Small Minds." Quill and Quire, a Canadian review of books, had this to say about Pound and his book: "Readers looking for the definitive exposé of Olympic greed, avarice, and scandal will be disappointed. . . .Pound occasionally comes across as supercilious and hypocritical. He pontificates about the scourge of fixed judging in figure skating and the injustice of hopped-up athletes who win medals, but fails to connect those scandals to the same morally bankrupt, win-at-all-costs attitudes that had infected the bidding process leading up to the Salt Lake scandal."

I detest Pound on principle as a hypocrite who attacks the easiest and most vulnerable targets he can find for the sake of his own advancement. He should be summarily dislodged from his job for betraying his chief responsibility as the head of WADA, to be measured and fair. Personally, I find him utterly devoid of any real Olympic spirit or spirit of justice. The Romans believed that the enforcement of an absolutely just law, without any regard for possible exceptions, resulted in absolute injustice. Or as Martin Luther King put it, "an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere."

We should all question, rightly, what's going on in Olympic sports and how best to make the Games fair, untainted and equitable for all competitors. But there is one person we most assuredly should not listen to, Dick Pound. He is neither fair, nor equitable, nor untainted.


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