Chasing the drug cheats
Sportsworld's Brendan Connor meets World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound.
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2007 08:24 GMT

Some sports stars will be happy to see the back of Dick Pound, while others commend his work [AFP]

As Dick Pound strolled the lobby of the Palacio de Congress in Madrid, all eyes turned toward him, and as he passed the whispers often began.
Some were no doubt derisive, some complimentary, but the delegates to the third international World Anti-Doping Agency conference always paid attention to him and always knew when he was in the room.
One of the most influential men in sport, Pound is the former Olympic swimmer, and Montreal lawyer who has run the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) with an uncompromising, and at times unpopular, stance for the last eight years.
On December 31, his tenure will end as WADA president, and he will pass the baton to Australia's John Fahey.
In a chat with Pound, it's clear his crusade against drug cheaters in sport and the success the organisation has seen is something he's proud of.

"I think we're making progress against drug cheaters in sport."

Dick Pound,
outgoing WADA president

"I think we're making progress against drug cheaters in sport," Pound said.
"If you look at a canvas background, one of the real achievements in the last eight years is that I think we've increased the awareness about the nature and extent of the problem of drugs in sport, and of the danger - both the medical and ethical dangers.
"So that's been good, and then as far as putting bricks and mortar together, we have a World Anti-Doping Code now. It's a single set of rules that applies to all sports, all countries, all athletes.
"We just had this international convention in which the public authorities agreed to use and apply the same rules as we are in sport. So you have the sound of two hands clapping together for the first time history in this area."
Outspoken and controversial

Newly elected WADA president John Fahey,
right, will take over from Pound in 2008 [AFP]

As Pound leaves the post of president, it comes as a relief to some. There are sport federations who thought he was too outspoken, too controversial and less than subtle in his scathing remarks about drug cheaters.
"Well, look. For the most part, you're dealing with deliberate, organised, systematic cheating. It's undertaken for the sole purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. That has to be confronted," Pound said.
"You can't sit around holding hands and saying 'Om' and 'aren't we wonderful and let's all play fair.' People don't care. You're dealing with the sociopaths of sport, so you have to be confrontational.
"It's not my natural view, but if you take the job and the job description, and say 'How are we going to get at this issue ?' It simply has to be by confrontation, and there are a lot of people who are mad about that, but it's because they are being pointed out as cheaters."
Exposing cheats
Pound considers 2007 a tough year, but a good year in terms of his organisation's mandate.
Olympic sprinter Marion Jones admitted to steroid use, the Tour de France and the sport of cycling were embroiled in a series of doping scandals as top riders were caught, and high-profile athletes like Martina Hingis of tennis, and baseball home run king Barry Bonds have been associated with drug-taking.

"You wish you never had to expose these cheaters and dash people's impression of them, but each one of these cases represents a violation... "

Dick Pound,
outgoing WADA president

"You wish you never had to expose these cheaters and dash people's impression of them, but each one of these cases represents a violation, and it's an achievement because a cheater has been taken out of the mix," said the Canadian.
"In the case of Marion Jones, it was particularly appalling because she dragged out her claim of innocence for seven years, before finally admitting she cheated.
"You'd like to think that the calculus of sport is pretty simple. We say: 'Here's our deal. The race is 100 metres, this is how you win or score, and there are certain things we don't do or take.' That's what sport should be about."
New doping outlook for cycling

US cyclist Floyd Landis was another high-profile
drug cheat during the Dick Pound era [AFP]

On the subject of cycling and the Tour de France, Pound believes the new leaders of the federation are dedicated to try to remove the stain from their sport.
"I think the old management in cycling simply denied, denied and denied, long past any point of credibility based on what was happening in the Tour de France and in other competitions," the 65-year-old said.
"However, the new leadership has obviously looked into this abyss and has decided if they don't get some kind of paradigm shift in our sport, they risk losing everything. I mean they have media organizations not covering the races, sponsors pulling out, teams folding, and fans entirely dubious.
"They know they could be 'down the tubes' if they don't do something, so I think they've pulled back from the edge, and are doing some good work now to rid their sport of the cheats."
At the recently-completed conference, WADA passed a resolution that would see the doubling of suspension time from two years to four years for doping offenders.
It also promises to reduce suspension time for those athletes who admit to cheating and who co-operate with investigations. And, in a new wrinkle, WADA will consider three 'skipped' drug tests as the same as a positive result, and suspensions will apply.
Big tests for Beijing
Looking to the immediate future, one of the things delegates to the Anti-Doping conference heard is that there could be as many as 4500 athletes tested at the next Summer Olympics in Beijing. That would be nearly half the athletes competing, and Pound thinks it's a good thing.
"I think it's a very good thing. Not only will it be done, and with state of the art technology and methods, but as a deterrent," the outgoing president said.
"You know as an athlete if you go there, your chances of being tested are much greater than ever before, and your sport federation knows it as well, so they'll be doing their own testing beforehand.
"No-one wants positive tests in their sport, and each country will be resolute in not wanting to send athletes that are 'doped', not just to avoid the national embarrassment, but because it's contrary to what all of us believe that sport should be. I think that message about 4500 tests in Beijing will have a big trickle-down effect by way of deterrence."
There is some talk of Pound's next post being in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the body that rules on various legal challenges in the world of sport.
Wherever he emerges next, athletes and sport federations everywhere can thank Pound for his diligent efforts these last eight years, and it's likely a good bet he'll continue to be an outspoken critic of and a crusader against drug-cheating in sport.
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