MADRID, Oct 25 (Reuters) Juan Antonio Samaranch has refuted suggestions from World Anti-Doping chief Dick Pound that he was soft on doping during his tenure as IOC president and said the criticism was a result of frustrated ambition.
''I am not surprised by Mr Richard Pound's comments as, since the year 2001, when the elections for the Presidency of the International Olympic Committee were held, there has been no personal relationship between us,'' Samaranch said in a statement sent to Reuters.
''That year Jacques Rogge was elected as the new president by a majority. He won by 59 votes whereas Mr Pound obtained 22 and reached the third position ... Mr Pound still has not forgotten his defeat, which definitively prevented him achieving the IOC's presidency.'' Pound, who is stepping down as WADA chief this year, told Reuters in a recent telephone interview that Samaranch had not been interested in taking concerted action against doping until after the 1998 Festina scandal at the Tour de France.
But Samaranch, who was IOC chief between 1980 and 2001, said it was Pound who had taken an equivocal attitude to the issue of doping when Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive at the 1988 Olympics.
''I clearly remember the first time I heard Mr Pound talking about the doping issue,'' said Samaranch. ''It was in September 1988, during the Seoul Olympic Games.
JOHNSON CASE ''The Executive Board I presided over back then was debating whether to suspend the Canadian athlete Ben Johnson and whether to take his medal away.
''During those meetings, Mr Pound defended him and claimed that Johnson had been sabotaged, as he was forced to drink a liquid intoxicated with the kind of drug later detected by the tests against doping.
''Naturally his claims were ignored and Ben Johnson was suspended and his gold medal taken away.'' Samaranch reminded Pound that WADA was created at his personal suggestion in 1999 while he was IOC president.
''We realised that the anti-doping fight could not be delivered only by the IOC, the International Federations or the National Olympic Committees. And so it was done, and that's the truth about the creation of WADA.
''Under my presidency the Court of Arbitration for Sport was also founded. It has proven to be very successful and it is the last legal resort to solve many doping cases,'' added Samaranch.
''I rarely reply to comments regarding my career as the president of the IOC, but I would like to declare that I deeply regret that Mr Dick Pound, on whom I relied as a member of the Executive Board and as the vice-president, has given such comments.'' REUTERS BJR PM1816