I write in response to Sally Jenkins's article of Aug. 13, titled "The Difficulty of Watching Pound Throw his Weight Around."
I believe in the concept of a free press and the opportunity for diverse opinion to be expressed on a wide variety of subjects. I do not believe that concept provides a license for vicious and uninformed attacks on individuals. I am disappointed that The Washington Post permitted an article to be published with relentless disregard of the facts.
If I am able to discern a theme in Jenkins's article, amongst the proliferation of prejudicial and intellectually lazy assertions, it seems to amount to this:
1. There is a serious drug problem in sport today, including track and field;
2. This problem affects U.S. track and field athletes;
3. One such athlete on whom the media have recently concentrated is Marion Jones, who has not been charged with any doping offense;
4. I have commented on the Jones case, apparently in a manner that will prejudice Jones's right to an impartial decision on the facts of her case; and
5. I have unfairly pointed a finger at USA Track and Field for its lack of leadership in the fight against drug use in its sport.
Jenkins and I can agree on the first three points. As to the fourth, I have commented on the Jones case -- in response to media inquiries -- to say that she has not been charged with any offense and is fully entitled to the presumption that she is not guilty and eligible to participate in the Olympic Games. I have also questioned the wisdom of the strategy adopted by her entourage of accusing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of being a "kangaroo court" when every piece of evidence points to the contrary.
I do not know, and Jenkins certainly does not know, whether Jones is innocent. What I do know (and what Jenkins should know) is that should any notification of a doping charge be raised against Jones, the matter will be heard by independent arbitrators who, in reaching their decision, will rely on the evidence before them, not on anything the media may have published or by statements made anyone else. There is no denial of due process in any respect. The decision to "go public" was made by the Jones entourage, not by the anti-doping authorities. Jenkins's apparent belief is that it would be better for any drug user to get away with the offense than for comments to be aired in public.
Regarding USATF, Jenkins has, again, not got her facts right. I have been critical of USATF for several reasons. It was USATF that accredited C.J. Hunter at the Sydney Games, even though it knew he had tested positive four times earlier in 2000. It was USATF that entered Jerome Young in the 4x400 relay, knowing of his positive test and the wholly unconvincing exoneration of him, thereby tainting the whole relay team and exposing it to a loss of the gold medal. It was USATF that fought for years to prevent disclosure of Young's identity to the IAAF, in the face of clear rules requiring such disclosure, on the flimsy pretext that U.S. law prevented such disclosure. The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected any such notion.
Jenkins suggests that I should keep quiet because USADA has responsibility for testing for drug violations. She omits to mention that USADA only started its operations in October 2000, well after the events giving rise to the situations I have identified. She also overlooks the evident responsibility of USATF to show leadership in the fight against the use of drugs in sport and blithely leaves all such responsibility in the hands of after-the-fact testers, not the organization responsible for providing a drug-free culture in its sport.
There are too many prejudicial accusations made by Jenkins to answer in the space available. But one, in particular, deserves exposure, which was the decision of WADA to locate the headquarters of the organization in Montreal. Jenkins writes: "As far as I can tell, Pound has committed exactly one act of any substance as the head of [the World Anti-Doping Agency]: He moved the organization to Montreal, conveniently for him, and perhaps, his business pals. Is that an unfair accusation? Well." The fact is that the WADA Foundation Board, of which half the members are governments (including the United States), decided, in an election in which I did not participate, to move the headquarters to Montreal following a competitive bidding process. Apart from its manifest incorrectness, it is a cheap journalistic ploy to then pose the rhetorical question.
There is much more of a similar and equally odious nature. Jenkins's personal prejudice has gotten in the way of her professional responsibility and her editors failed to hold her to the standards of governance I should have thought The Washington Post would embrace. A newspaper of record should act like one, not like a tabloid. Make your journalists check their facts. This hatchet job cannot be blandly dismissed as "fair comment" on someone who occupies a voluntary position that may attract media attention. If the journalist is reduced to name calling, it should be a sign that she has overstepped. Which she has.
Richard Pound is chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency.