© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated
“Coe’s record speaks pretty well for itself, especially in generating enthusiasm for the London bid, leading the successful campaign, and then being the public face and motivator of the organising committee. I think he could do the same for the IAAF,” said Dick Pound. “I have heard of no credible alternative leader proposed by anyone. I also think, as you know, that the best solution will come from within the organization that has got itself into the mess.”
Canadian Lawyer and founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Dick Pound headed the Independent Commission (IC) that was assembled in December 2014, for the purpose of investigating alleged corruption and doping practices within the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), in Russian athletics, specifically the All Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RADA). The IC’s formation was a quick response by the stunning allegations made by ARD Television in their documentary, “How Russia makes champions”, where they exposed extortion for the purpose of silence from positive doping test results of Russian athletes.
What he found and the recommendation Pound made in November 2015 with the release of the IC’s first report was ground-breaking in its nature; the banning of an entire nation from competing in a sport.
Along with fellow Canadian Lawyer Richard McLaren as well as GÜnter Younger head of the Bavarian Cyber Crime division, the IC recommended that Russia or ARAF be banned from participating in the sport of athletics until such time that they prove that they have cleaned up their act.
The IC released two reports on their nearly 12-month investigation and although powerless to implement anything, they could make recommendations. Recommending that the IAAF ban Russia was jaw-dropping in its scope.
Some of the foreshadowing that took place during the time between the release of Part one and Part two of the IC investigation spoke of something ominous, perhaps that Kenya was to be banned or that the corruption was proven to have infected the sporting world at all levels. It was to have a “wow factor,” According to Pound.
Report number two did not provide a public lynching that the media was anticipating; in fact Pound recommended that the current President of the IAAF, Lord Sebastian Coe, was the best candidate to lead the IAAF out of their current situation. This appeared to be a dramatic about face of sorts.
“The real issue seems to be that I failed to participate in a lynching. I don’t do lynchings,” said Pound.
In an Athletics Illustrated article, I suggested that something had happened between the IC’s two reports for example, that Pound was perhaps intercepted and coerced or bullied or perhaps even begged into not bringing the sport down any further.
In response Pound said, “Why would you even think, if you had taken any care with your background research on me that I would permit myself to be “intercepted” in a matter of such importance?” One of the (many) reasons why I was never president of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) was that I did not fail to act on a principled basis on many contentious issues within the IOC and within WADA, regardless of the impact on my personal advancement within each organisation and regardless of what the media may have thought of any such decision.”
“The conclusions of the IC were not the result of any intervention by anybody. There was certainly no sell-out by anybody, including your humble servant, and we stand by those conclusions.”
The perception of the second report according to the media and anyone who watched the live stream was that there was no big news and in fact, it appeared that there was a change in Pound. Pound did say that people within the IAAF “had to know” (about doping). It turns out, he was not referring to council members or anyone specifically knowing about much of the corruption, which, as corruption goes was conducted under the veil of secrecy, likely within a very small and closed circle of individuals who the former President of the IAAF Lamine Diack likely surrounded himself with.
According to Dick Pound, “It cannot seriously be suggested that members of the IAAF Council were aware of the special arrangements with Russia that were entered into by the IAAF president and his inner circle.”
When asked about the apparently conflicting comments that Lord Sebastian Coe was the best person to lead the IAAF and the “they had to know” comment, Pound told Athletics Illustrated, “In the IC Report, you will see that no individual “blame” was attached to any individual member of the IAAF Council. We found that there was an institutional failure to ensure that principles of good governance were in place and that this failure contributed to the problems the IC was mandated to investigate.”
“What the IC did note was that members would have been aware that there was a serious doping problem in Russia (plus in other countries).”
Pound feels that the best candidate to lead the IAAF to change is already in place, Lord Sebastian Coe. Regardless of some of Coe’s public relation failures after the ARD documentary aired.
“You saw how close the result was (between two candidates of far from equal ability) and one cannot be seen to be attacking the incumbent (who retains a great deal of influence, even on the way out, where small countries can outnumber large countries – do the math) even if he was incompetent.”
In other words, why usurp one’s own political campaign?
“If you attended the press conference, it is just possible that you may have noticed a concerted (if somewhat localised) view that Lord Coe should have been held personally responsible for all of the IAAF failures, and even that he should resign. No one else was identified as having been at “fault” and no suggestion was made as to who might replace him. What seemed important to some journalists was the nuclear solution, in which what to do the day after Armageddon had not been considered.”
“I think there was probably a general awareness that there was a lot of doping going on in Russia (among other countries), but there was an absence of proof to enable sanctions to be imposed, other than positive tests, of which there were many. You cannot suspend a country on the basis of suspicion, even strong suspicion. Even the IC would have been essentially powerless, but for the whistleblowers and confidential witnesses. We had documents and we were in the fortunate position that one of the whistleblowers was the victim of the extortion scheme. Without that evidence, we would have been in the he said – she said conundrum, in which everything would have been met with flat denials.
Pound has long earned the reputation of not suffering fools lightly. He is typically unapologetic in his view of sports that appear to have doping issues. For example in 2012 he said, “There is known and suspected use of human growth hormone (HGH) in the National Football League (NFL).” Apparently he claimed that “union lawyers who seek more information about testing for the performance-enhancing drug “flock to the pseudo-science like ants to a picnic.””
In 2005, Pound raised the ire of the NHL suggesting that performance enhancing drugs were widespread in their use in the league, that up to a third of athletes use them.
“I would respectfully suggest that Mr. Pound’s comments have absolutely no basis in fact,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press. “I find it troubling, to say the least, that he would find it necessary to comment on something he has absolutely no knowledge of.”
In 2003 Pound called Major League Baseball’s drug policy “a joke”.
He told the Associated Press, “I think it’s an insult to the fight against doping in sport, an insult to the intelligence of the American public and an insult to the game itself,”
“I think it’s a complete and utter joke. You can test positive for steroids five times, then they think of booting you out for a year? Give me a break. The first time someone has knowingly cheated and they give you counselling? It’s a complete and utter joke.”
Around that time, players who were smashing home run records at a whole new level were being caught or admitting to taking steroids, for example, Mark McGuire admitted to taking an over the counter product called androstenedione, but the product was already banned by WADA. He later admitted to taking steroids for over a decade. Sammy Sosa was named with several other players along with Barry Bonds in a book by Jose Cansenco, where he wrote openly about taking steroids and named several athletes.
In 2009, the Bleacher Report published a list of 103 NFL players who apparently tested positive for PEDs.
ON May 26, 2009 Richard and Sandra Thomas were arrested in what the Polk County Sherriff’s Office claimed as one of the biggest steroid busts in Florida history. According to the Thomas’s they supplied steroids to the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association (NBA) as well as the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Little has come of it.
Perhaps professional sport’s self-policing policy is indeed a joke; however, where WADA and the IAAF have a role, it wasn’t until the media, specifically ARD Television, unearthed apparent systematic corruption and doping in Russia that the IC was formed to investigate the allegations.
Pound’s tough, frank and honest reputation is well earned. He is also very clear that democracy – in this case a properly run election – trumps.
“I find that the call for Coe’s resignation is somewhat anomalous. It would be like the media calling up Prime Minister Cameron to say: “Prime Minister, a bunch of us in the media, having sat around breathing our own exhaust for a while, and have come to the conclusion that the voters got it wrong. So, you should resign at once.”
“The IAAF has had its election. It has chosen its officers and Council. Now they should be given a chance to do the right thing. I fully agree that anyone is entitled to suggest what that “right thing” might be, but I do not agree that this includes attempting to nullify the outcomes of properly constituted elections.”