Dick Pound, the Canadian whom his devoted Olympic colleagues
rejected as their leader, is probably the savviest person in
sport today. This side of Charles Barkley, he is certainly the
most candid. Now he is also a crusader, the scourge of drugs in
sport. He is terribly complicated too. "I'm a cynical idealist,"
he says in his law office in Montreal, where he makes a living
when he is not doing the dirty work, the world over, gratis, for
the International Olympic Committee.
This is an article from the Dec. 16, 2002 issue
It helps that Pound is the classic quick study. He learned
quickly what buttons to push. "All you have to do is know a
little more than almost everybody else on every agenda," he says
of working for volunteer organizations. "When I got into the
Canadian Olympic Association, I figured it out: You don't have to
make me president--just let me be the secretary. If you write the
first draft, you have control. And then you become
Of course, we know two things: Nobody likes a smart-ass, and the
graveyards are full of indispensable men. Thus, when Juan Antonio
Samaranch was taken off the Olympic stage in July 2001, the IOC
members gave the president's job to a pleasant Belgian doctor
named Jacques Rogge. Says Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC
Sports, which has U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics through
2008, "I told Dick, 'You can't be elected unless you start
kissing babies. Not asses necessarily, just babies.' But Dick has
an unbelievable brain, he is spin-less, and he tells everybody
exactly what he thinks."
So Pound, who refuses to suffer fools, even the ones who vote,
paid the price of rejection for not having been diplomatic enough
over the years. "Someone once said that diplomacy is something
you do until you find a rock," says Pound, 60. "I don't think
it's any coincidence that all the hard things have come my way,
but none of the pomp and circ. The trouble with too many people
in the IOC is that they're always: ready, aim ... aim ...
But here was the twist. Rather than quit the IOC after being
outvoted for the top job, Pound, the classic wheeler-dealer
insider, the television impresario, the marketeer, the Olympics'
internal prosecutor (and sometime apologist), became the
protector of purity in international sport. As the new chairman
of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Pound is not only the
chief magistrate in sport's battle against performance-enhancing
substances but also its conscience. "The drug problem has gone on
too long, and not enough resources have been devoted to it," he
says. "It's insulting to someone who comes into sport for the
right reason to be cheated by someone using drugs. I don't just
mean steroids but also things like blood doping. We're closing
our eyes to the nutritional-supplement programs. But now it's
open season on anyone who has cheated or helped people to cheat."
For so long the IOC's antidrug stance was a Potemkin village. The
IOC member in charge until WADA was created in November 1999 was
the late Alexandre, Prince de Merode, a man whose day job was the
presidency of the Belgium Genealogical and Heraldic office. The
Prince was thus well trained in what constitutes a good front.
"Why has no one thought to test ministers at the end of a
parliamentary session?" he said once when governments started to
question Olympic drug policy. Samaranch, along with many of his
sycophants, operated on the same theory that the baseball union
and owners now call policy: If nobody gets caught, then nobody is
Pound was, however, an early, lonely voice against doping, so his
transformation from the Olympic Richelieu to the Olympic Javert
may not be as stark as it seems. Certainly, too, no one has
suffered Pound's wrath more than the U.S.--especially USA Track &
Field, which claimed that it did not have to divulge the names of
its drug violators because American privacy law forbade
disclosure. "Bulls!" Pound roars. "A fabrication. There is no
such law. Why shouldn't the United States go along? This isn't
trying war criminals. We're designing a program to protect those
who don't cheat."
Pound is hardly anti-American--among other things, his wife,
Julie, is one--but he delights in fencing with U.S. Olympic
policy makers. There's no doubt that his hectoring helped force
the USOC to intensify its drug-testing efforts to fall in line
with what WADA demands of athletes and Olympic federations in the
rest of the world. Pound continues to view the U.S.'s desultory
role in the IOC more in sadness than in anger. "The USOC is so
internal-looking," he says. "All they ever think is, It's our
money that's going to run this Euro-trash organization. The USOC
could be influential without being powerful. But you can't be
insular and then complain about not having any international
As Pound knows, the brightest Americans who are interested in
sports administration gravitate toward U.S. pro leagues or
college athletics. Few Americans have any desire to get involved
in Olympic sports federations, in which international leaders are
developed, alliances formed and IOC policy nurtured. "You know,"
he says, looking back at the bribery scandal that grew out of
Salt Lake City's failure to land the 1998 Winter Games, "the only
reason--the only reason--that the mess in Salt Lake City happened
was that the United States still doesn't know its ass from first
base internationally. Look, we'd just given the Summer Games to
Atlanta for '96. We couldn't come right back to the same country
two years later. No way. We told Salt Lake City that. Just be
patient. But, you see, nobody in the USOC learns the
For Europeans, it's enough that Pound comes from the wrong side
of the Atlantic--he is guilty by contiguousness. "In the IOC," he
sighs, "I'm viewed as an American." In fact Pound is the
all-Canadian boy. He was born in St. Catharines, Ont., raised in
the tiny town of Ocean Falls, B.C., and then moved to Montreal as
a teenager. "As a Canadian," he says, "you learn that you cannot
impose yourself on anyone. As a Canadian, I have a much better
understanding of the cultural and linguistic differences in the
world. In most places, like here in Quebec, the melting pot is
But then it is fair to say that Pound has sometimes exhibited the
abrasiveness so often associated with Americans. In their
bizarre, symbiotic relationship, Samaranch used Pound as his
hammer. Even now, after Samaranch knifed Pound in the back by
supporting Rogge as his successor, Pound praises Samaranch to the
heavens for his extraordinary leadership. On the other hand he
mocks Samaranch for growing power-crazy, surrounding himself with
vapid bootlickers in "an orgy of self-glorification." Indeed,
after the 2001 IOC presidential election, Pound wrote Samaranch a
scathing letter, accusing him of deceit and hypocrisy.
Samaranch never replied. Later, Pound met with Rogge, who
graciously told him, "This had nothing to do with who was the
most qualified. It only had to do with who got the most votes.
And I got the most votes."
Says Pound, "I've never had any problem with Jacques Rogge. My
problem has only been with those who voted for him. Maybe
[Rogge's victory] has a lot to do with not electing two strong
men in a row. You had [Avery] Brundage--strong, then Lord
Killanin--weak. Then Samaranch--strong, then...." He lets the
obvious go unsaid.
Rogge came to office with three major issues facing the IOC:
drugs, finances and the Games' gargantuanism. Taking a page from
Samaranch's book, Rogge asked Pound to handle all three. Pound
agreed to take on only two: the antidoping effort and the
downsizing of the Olympics--thankless assignments that could only
gather him more enmity.
Perhaps the greatest contradiction in Pound is that as clearly as
he sees the duplicity and corruption in the so-called Movement,
he still trusts in it. "The Movement provides an ethical
framework for life in an international structure," he says.
"People think that if the Olympics can work, then maybe there's a
chance that the rest of the world can work too." He believes
that, and he believes that drugs threaten that dream.
He was sure he was the best person to run the Games and the
Movement, but that was denied him. So now all his pragmatism and
passion will be poured into fighting doping. Perhaps what is so
attractive about this crusade is that there is no ambiguity.
There is nothing to apologize for, no politics, no cynicism. It
is a mission, and Dick Pound is a missionary, albeit one with
six-guns strapped onto his zeal.
The Dick Pound File
DATE-PLACE OF BIRTH: March 22, 1942, St. Catharines, Ont.
FAMILY: Wife: Julie Houghton Keith, a writer; three children, two
EDUCATION: Commerce degree (1962) and law degree ('67) from
McGill University; arts degree ('63) from Sir George Williams
OCCUPATION: Lawyer, chartered accountant, chancellor (McGill
TENURE WITH IOC: 25 years
TOP ADMINISTRATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENT: Negotiated television rights
for the IOC since 1983
MOST NOTABLE FAILURE: Finished behind Jacques Rogge and Un Yong
Kim in a bid for the IOC presidency in 2001
SPORTING HONORS: Swam for Canada at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, in
the 100 meter freestyle (sixth) and 4¬•400 medley relay (fourth)
He Tells It Like It Is
Dick Pound is not afraid to be candid. Here are three of his
remarks to SI about others involved in the Olympics:
ON USA TRACK & FIELD: "USATF consistently ignores the [drug-testing]
rules. They make Horatio on the bridge look like a guy with a
ON THOSE WHO RUN THE USOC: "The last American who commanded any
respect internationally was Bill Simon. And how long has it been
since he was head of the USOC? Twenty years."
ON FORMER IOC PRESIDENT JUAN ANTONIO SAMARANCH: "He would
have changed the rules and run again if Salt Lake hadn't exploded
all over him. Samaranch had no intention of leaving office feet