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October 25, 2001 Richard Pound: Still cleaning up the Olympics



by Natasha Mekhail

Dick Pound doesn’t know whether he’ll rebuild severed ties with the International Olympic Committee, but for now, at least, he’s turning his attention to cleaning drugs out of sport.

It will be a massive task, something the 59-year-old former Olympian called making athletics “an honourable quest to see where your talents can take you.”

Pound chairs the World Anti-Doping Agency, a regulatory department that works at arm’s length from the IOC. Last Wednesday at Loyola, Pound spoke to students and staff from the Department of Exercise Science.

This summer it was announced that Montreal will house the headquarters of WADA, a centre for drug research and a place to come up with a set of international rules on what athletes can put into their bodies.

The agency is a response to the problem of athletes, from high school to the Olympic level, failing drug tests, having awards taken away and, in many cases, ruining their careers. Pound blamed not just the athletes but their coaches and doctors.

“Athletes need protection from themselves and their entourage,” he said. “The athletes, who bear a small part of the responsibility — especially the younger ones — are the ones who take all of the penalty.”

The drugs aren’t just steroids either; vitamins and cold medications are getting people into trouble. Part of WADA’s research will be to clarify which drugs should constitute banned substances.

Pound was behind the creation of WADA in 1999, and until now it has been in Lausanne, Switzerland. The fact that Lausanne is the home of the International Olympic Committee raised the question of whether the people who want to make the Olympics a success should be neighbours with those trying to clean it up.

Until recently, Pound was a vice-president at the IOC, the highest-ranking Canadian in the organization. He left this summer, after losing a run at the presidency, just days after Toronto lost its bid for the 2008 Summer Games.

“What are we?” he said with a smile. “One for three this year.”

He jokes about it now, but his departure was a serious move. Pound was known as the IOC’s Mr. Clean. He led the inquiry into the Salt Lake City scandal. The 1999 investigation ended with 10 IOC members leaving the committee. They were all found guilty of accepting extravagant gifts from the group who wanted the 2002 Winter Games held in Salt Lake City.

However, even Pound’s full-scale inquiry didn’t result in all players being punished equally. Some top-ranking IOC executives, including then-president Juan Antonio Samaranch, also accepted costly gifts, and those members weren’t thrown out like the others.

Then there’s the question of whether or not all the gift-giving had an impact. Salt Lake City, after all, won the bid, and will host the Olympics this winter.

Since the IOC is supposed to be a self-regulating body, the scandal continues to darken its credibility. After his lecture, Pound suggested that the new president, Jacques Rogge, wasn’t going to make reform a priority, but he’s giving him the benefit of the doubt. “I guess we’re going to see if he gets done what needs to be done.”

Two weeks ago he met with Rogge in Paris to talk about how the Canadian might fit into the new IOC regime. Pound wouldn’t say whether he was going back, but he did say he doesn’t intend to just disappear.

“The ball’s in the new president’s court. He’s got to decide what he’s going to do, and then I’ve got to decide,” Pound said. “I haven’t devoted 50 years of my life to [sport] to give it up just because I didn’t get the golden ring.”