Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Interview with Richard Pound, Chair: World Anti-Doping Agency, Former Vice-President International Olympic Committee

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Interview with Richard Pound, Chair: World Anti-Doping Agency, Former Vice-President International Olympic Committee

Article excerpt


Richard Pound, former Olympian, former Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), discusses the impact of doping on sport and shares his views on steroid usage in Major League Baseball. He reflects upon the Ben Johnson steroid scandal and on broader issues related to the Olympics, such as the commercialisation of the Games, the role of the Paralympics, and how controversies surrounding the Games are handled. The interview was conducted on 19 April 2005 at the Fifth Annual Sport Management Awards Ceremony held at SUNY College at Cortland.


FAY: What is the driving force or passion that motivates you to eradicate illegal drug use in sport?

POUND: I think it is a combination of many things, one of which is that sports should be fun. You shouldn't be cheated out of a result that you deserve, and one of the ways that you get cheated is when fellow competitors and their entourages do not accept the rules.

SNYDER: Some of your critics have claimed that you have unfairly singled out and attacked USA Track & Field in the media. What is your response to those allegations?

POUND: I think if you read the Australian press I am anti-Australian, and if you read the British press I am anti-British. I am anti 'people who cheat'. In the case of USA Track & Field, they put up an extensive, sustained effort to hide a cheater [US sprinter Jerome Young]. They knew he was positive when he entered the Games in Sydney and participated in the 4 X 400 relay, which the US eventually won. It tainted their performance. God knows how much they spent trying to prevent his identity from being leaked and fighting against the sanctions and against disclosure. Then there's the way they cleared him at the US Track & Field level, and fought through the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In my view, it's outrageous and it's an abandonment of the moral responsibility of a national federation. So, yes, I was against that. It would have been the same if it had been a Canadian federation.

SNYDER: Having said that, as a Canadian citizen and a former member of the Canadian Olympic Team, what were your emotions related to the Ben Johnson steroid scandal? I imagine as someone who has been outspoken against performance-enhancing drugs, and as a Canadian citizen, it must have really struck a chord with you.

POUND: Oh, it was worse than that. I was there. My wife and I were attending a lunch for the board of directors from Coca-Cola in President Samaranch's suite when President Samaranch came over and said to me, "Have you heard the news? It's terrible. It's terrible." I asked, "Did someone die?" He responded, "No, its worse than that. Ben Johnson's been tested positive for steroids." Afterwards, I was asked to defend him. Back in the 1980s, the rights of athletes, and making sure they got a good defence, were not what they are now. I said, "You know I'm Vice-President of the IOC, and if this doesn't work, tomorrow he is going to be disqualified." The response was, "It doesn't matter. We just want to make sure that someone is going to be there who knows enough to make sure he gets a fair shake." So, as the only Canadian lawyer in Seoul, I ended up defending him. And there was nothing that could be done. Just nothing. Are we quarrelling with the sample taking? No. Are we quarrelling with the scientific results of the test? No. Can we explain how this got into his system? Well, maybe he went out for a few drinks a couple of nights ago, but it doesn't matter. He had it in his system. There were no bullets to shoot. We went to the IOC Medical Commission and we fired these little popgun arguments, which you know as a lawyer aren't going to work. Finally, one of the scientists who was chairman of the doping sub-committee said, "Mr Pound, would you be interested in the results of the tests?" If you're a lawyer you know right then you're dead. …

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