Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dick Pound's War

There was good news from Montreal today, where WADA head Dick Pound announced that he’s leaving the organization at the end of his current three year term. A successor will be selected at their November meetings in Madrid.

I’ve no personal animosity towards the man, or towards the efforts of sports governing bodies to agree on and regulate objectionable behaviour including performance enhancing drugs.

But I’ve long objected to Pound’s over-the-top style – a sort of Sheila Fraser on steroids. He’s slandered individual athletes and entire sports based on the thinnest of evidence, or even outright supposition.

Back in November 2005 I took offense to his drive-by attack on the NHL, when he suggested that a third of players were using performance enhancing drugs. It took about half an hour to look at the WADA’s own test results and debunk the claim.

Pound was faking. It was just another moment in a long-running campaign to garner attention for his cause and himself (I've always expected it was more about the latter). The media loves him because he’s always ready with a quote. Just not with the evidence.

His style has alienated colleagues over the years. He lost his bid for election to the IOC in 2001, and after making unsupported allegations against Lance Armstrong, Dutch anti-doping head Emile Vrijman authored a 2006 report into the incident that ended by calling for an investigation into how Pound deals with the media. After Armstrong formally complained to the IOC, its ethics committee concluded that while it did not have jurisdiction over the WADA head, he should be more prudent in his public comments.

One of Pound’s last acts is to bully professional golf into adopting WADA-approved rules and testing. Legend Gary Player got into the act with a Poundism of his own: "at least 10 players and maybe more are on something,” he said at Carnoustie, adding, "I know for a fact that, whether it's HGH (human growth hormone) or steroids, some golfers are doing it." Pound agreed. Asked to substantiate the claim, they declined to name names.

With no reliable test available for HGH, the PGA recommended leaving it off the list for now. For Pound, that’s not good enough. Ever ready with a quip, he opined yesterday that HGH is the "drug of choice for anyone who wants to hit the ball far".

Don't bother looking for evidence to back that up, either. All’s fair in Dick Pound’s war. Hopefully in November WADA turns the battle over to a more circumspect General.


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