Pound prepares to step down as WADA chief

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Montreal, Nov 13: There will be few tears shed when Dick Pound steps down from his post as World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief at the end of the year.

Disgraced American cyclist Floyd Landis will not be congratulating the Canadian lawyer on a job well done, nor will Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, NHL boss Gary Bettman, the NFL's Roger Goodell or the NBA's David Stern.

Even Juan Antonio Samaranch, who pushed Pound into taking the WADA job, might be glad to see him go after the Canadian's recent suggestion that the former International Olympic Committee (IOC) president had not been particularly interested in the fight against doping in sport.

After eight years of relentlessly sniffing out drug cheats, however, Pound exits having made the playing field a little more level for athletes and having taken doping from sport's dirty secret to a mainstream issue discussed from the White House to the British Parliament.

Along the way, the outspoken Pound ruffled feathers and confronted several lawsuits and even a few death threats.

The former Olympic swimmer, however, was not intimidated.

His confrontational style and sometimes controversial comments kept the anti-doping fight in the headlines.

''There are a significant number of people who think I might be a complete asshole and they could be right,'' Pound told Reuters. ''But I really don't care if I piss people off. It (doping) is the most important gut issue for sport right now.''

PRESSURE MOUNTED

With doping eroding the credibility of some of the Olympic Games' core events, pressure mounted in the late 1990s to rid sport of performance-enhancing drugs but no one appeared to have the stomach to lead the fight.

In the aftermath of the 1998 Tour de France Festina team doping scandal, the havoc being wreaked on sport by drug cheats could no longer be ignored and WADA was born out of the need for a co-ordinated assault.

''Samaranch wasn't interested in the issue,'' said Pound.

''There was no money available for research and Samaranch wasn't interested in using the Olympic leverage against the international federations to make them do their job.

''I think we would have gone on like that for a long time if it hadn't been for the Festina fiasco in 1998.

''That was bad enough but what brought it home to the IOC were the comments Samaranch made.

''He's watching athletes being taking away by the French police at the Lausanne Palace on television and says to me: 'The IOC doping list is too long and if you can't absolutely prove it's dangerous it shouldn't be on'.

''All of which is fine, except it is 180 degrees from what he has been saying publicly and he has completely forgotten he has invited some journalists to be with him to see how the great Juan Antonio runs the world of sport.

''The next day one of the Spanish papers writes: 'IOC soft on drugs'.''

TIRELESS ZEAL

After three terms as WADA president, the Canadian IOC member will hand over the reins when his successor is elected this week during the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Madrid.

Under Pound's guidance, an anti-doping code and a uniform list of banned substances and sanctions were put in place.

Approaching the challenge with tireless zeal, Pound persuaded, badgered and bullied sports federations and nearly 200 countries to adopt the anti-doping code, threatening non-compliant nations with Olympic expulsion.

Pound feels his biggest accomplishment was bringing unprecedented awareness to his cause.

While North America's big four professional leagues dismissed his criticisms of their drugs policies, the US government and sports fans began to listen and question.

''Getting it (doping) on the radar screen was important,'' said Pound. ''Media are aware of it, policy makers are aware of it, parents are aware of it, athletes are aware of it. That's been satisfying.'' Pound said he had no shortage of ways to fill his time in the future and that a post with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was intriguing but not his only option.

''I'm not a very electable person,'' conceded Pound, who failed in a bid for the IOC presidency in 2001. ''It's the jobs that are important.

''Realistically I've done more good for the Olympic movement in this job than cutting ribbons and kissing babies as president of the IOC.''

UNI

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