Oct 28 2005
What is your deal, Dick Pound? The very first time I heard your name, I was like “what sort of douchebag named ‘Richard Pound’ would go by ‘Dick?'” Little did I know, I was soon to find out. Pretty much from your first day as WADA chair, you went on steaming tirades about how cycling was full of dopers. You weren’t long on evidence, but for someone with an advanced degree in Law, you didn’t seem particularly concerned about it.
Your utter disrespect for due process further belied your extensive legal education. You dismissed the scientific objections of an expert lab director in the Hamilton case as “a hissy fit,” and suggested that Hamilton should give back his medal, despite the fact that, through the process you helped design as IOC vice-president, he was entirely cleared. And, after the (hopefully) final round of allegations against Lance Armstrong, you began spewing accusations so haphazardly that your own underlings had to come out and reign you in.
These things were troubling. But this, this is taking it too far. It’s not your pollution of the young and open minds that read Britan’s most liberal paper that bothers me; it’s that as a partner in a major Canadian law firm, the Chancellor of a prestigeous Canadian university and the Chairman of an international organization to persuade people not to dope, you couldn’t put forth a convincing argument to save your life. Allow me to elucidate:
“Imagine waking up one morning to learn of a poll that said almost 80% of the population believed that the sport they most identified with doping was cycling. Recently, in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, countries in which cycling is particularly popular, that is precisely what happened. Think of it – four out of every five people surveyed chose cycling as the sport with the greatest drug problem. This is a stunning indictment of failure on the part of officials, organisers and riders.”
Ok, first off, what is this “Imagine waking up” crap? You sound like that faux 50’s filmstrip from “The Simpsons” that tells of the horrors of a world without Zinc. Secondly, you know why cycling is most associated with dope? Because cycling has the most stringent dope regulations in the world. People are getting caught and reported on every few months, and that keeps it in the public eye. Take baseball in 1997. As we know now, there were enough steroids going around to make Ben Johnson spray his shorts. Did 80% of people associate baseball with drugs then? Nope. So by your logic, the sport must have been clean.
“What has been the traditional response of cycling when reports of rampant drug use surface? If from riders, the riders are immediately denounced, marginalised, written off as cranks or sued. If from the media, they are dismissed as untrue, exaggerated, not representative or taken out of context.”
Well, the rider accusations tend to be a bit warped. Philippe Gaumont admitted in his own book that he was whacked off his gourd on pot belge half the time. Jesus Manzano openly admitted that revenge was a motivating factor in his Kelme exposÃ© in 2004. And the media? l’Equipe’s attack on Armstrong this August involved anonymous, six-year-old urine samples, hardly up to WADA’s procedural code. But were these “marginalized” or “dismissed?” Well, let’s see: Cofidis immediately suspended itself from the most important one-day races of the year, conducted a full investigation and fired two riders, all because of Gaumont, while Manzano’s accusations got Kelme banned from the ProTour. And would you call the two-month media firestorm that resulted from Armstrongate a “dismissal?”
“When confronted with the increasing number of deaths among young riders, cycling officials brush off the statistical anomalies by explaining, vaguely, that the athlete must have had a heart problem. When observations are made that cycling’s testing programmes do not seem to be effective, officials complain that they do more testing than in any other sport and that they should be congratulated, instead of criticised, for their efforts – even if it seems they are unable to find a drop of water in the ocean.”
Excuse me? The last “mystery rider death” I read about was in early 2003. Young riders are far more prone to dying on car bumpers than in their beds. At any rate, I know the first thing on everyone’s mind when they hear about a “mystery death” isn’t “heart condition,’ it’s EPO. And considering the number of positives testing turns up each year (Danilo Hondo, Tyler Hamilton, Aitor Gonzalez, Santi Perez, Stephan Van Dijk etc., etc.) I’d say it’s pretty effective. Can you name 5 top-level athletes in any sport who were busted for drugs in the past two years? Or are you “certain” that all other sports are clean for the same reason you’re “certain” that cycling is dirty?
“Take the Tour de France. It is one of cycling’s marquee events, famous all over the world. It is a gruelling event (some say too much so, and thus one of the reasons for doping), lasting almost a month, covering some difficult and mountainous territory. There is no doubt that some riders in the event are doped. In 1998, the extent of the doping became all too clear when the Festina team was found with industrial quantities of drugs and related equipment and arrests were made by the French police. This should have served as a call to arms for cycling. Apparently not. Drug use, within entire teams, continues unabated.”
Again, Dick, you’re really weak on evidence and research here. The tour used to cover far more ground, well over 4,000km in 25 stages in 1988, sometimes in chunks as large as 300k. After Festina, the race was intentionally shortened to reduce doping pressure. But you, omniscient god of drug in sport, don’t simply suggest, but indeed, know that “some riders in the event are doped.” Where’s your evidence? It is that the race is hard? Could you seriously be implying that humans cannot overcome momumental physical challenges without using drugs?
“Get something straight. This drug use is not the accidental ingestion of a tainted supplement by an individual athlete. It is planned and deliberate cheating, with complex methods, sophisticated substances and techniques, and the active complicity of doctors, scientists, team officials and riders. There is nothing accidental about it. All this cheating goes on under the supposedly watchful eyes of cycling officials, who loudly proclaim that their sport is drug-free and committed to remaining so. Based on performance, they should not be allowed outdoors without white canes and seeing-eye dogs.”
Remove the word “cycling” from this paragraph and it could be about any sport. But, Dick, you shouldn’t be allowed out of the library, even with a cane and a dog, until you crack the books and do some friggin’ research. 1) No one believes “accidental ingestion” cases. It is, after vanishing twin, the lamest excuse out there. Athletes know, and have known for many years, that they are 100% responsible for what’s in their bodies; 2) No one in their right mind proclaims that cycling (or any sport) is drug-free, and no one else believes people who do. It would be like believing, oh, I don’t know, the rantings of some old Canadian windbag, who insists wihtout evidence, that all cyclists are on drugs.
“Faced with overwhelming evidence that doping continues and that its own testing programmes are not effective, cycling should outsource them to an independent agency and act effectively to impose meaningful sanctions when positive cases arise. Testing needs to be targeted, with no notice, and from the moment a rider has been notified that he has been selected for a test he must be supervised until the sample is provided. The programme must operate 24 hours a day, to include the time when the doping activities occur.”
Dude, again with the “evidence.” Just tell me where it is. I will get it and publish it on this very web page. Oh, wait. I know where it is. It’s over in Iraq, in the Sunni triangle, with those elusive WMDs. Damn. Well, we’ll get it someday. As for the rest of this paragraph, I’m fine with it. Unfortunately, this is the closest you’ve ever come to a constructive solution to the problem of doping, and it’s two sentences out of what, thousands?
“Is cycling serious about doping? How about a biblical answer: there are none so blind as those that will not see. Until cycling itself acknowledges that there is a problem, it will not be able to find a cure. Ritual denial and organisational omerta are not solutions.”
Here’s my biblical response, Dick: “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:2). Currently, Dick, you are nothing more than flaming, anti-everything mouthpiece, alienating valuable allies in your fight against drugs in sport. You get a lot of headlines, but you sure as sh!t don’t get a whole lot done.
Cycling does acknowledge its problem, otherwise they wouldn’t test as rigorously as they do. So stop running your trap and tone down the holier-than-thou act. Try working with the UCI for a change, instead of pissing all over them. Try giving a little credit when it’s due, and issuing criticism only when it’s warranted. There are a lot of people out there, Dick, who think that WADA might actually help reduce doping in sport someday. And at the moment, you owe us a whole lot more than you’re putting out.