A Pound of cure from drugs

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

Dick Pound is doing this interview on a performance-enhancing substance.

The high-profile crusader against performance-enhancing drugs in sports is battling a cold he picked up during a trip to Paris.

I believe he popped a throat lozenge to help him overcome his cough and get through our conversation yesterday.

He did use the facilities at the Sun yesterday, but we did not take a sample.

Pound, who's made his share of headlines attacking North America's pro sports leagues for their drug policies, is making the rounds these days to promote his book, Inside Dope.

NHL CONTROVERSY

The founder and chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency stirred up the hockey world last year when he said a third of NHLers are using some kind of performance-enhancing drugs.

He wasn't skating away from that claim yesterday.

"I'm more than happy to be known by the enemies I make in this fight," said Pound, a Montreal lawyer. "At least the NHL is doing some testing, but they still are in major league institutional denial about the problem.

"I think (the introduction of testing is) probably less than from what I said than from the pressure of the U.S. Congress to do something, although the Congress has expressed to the NHL its program sucks. They don't test off-season and they're not allowed to test before or after games for stimulants.

''The spin doctors tried to say when I made my statement I was talking about steroids, that 33% of NHLers were on steroids. I'm smart enough not to do that. Everybody knows the drugs of choice in hockey are the stimulants."

The book, like the cover says, is Pound's explanation "how drugs are the biggest threat to sports, why you should care and what can be done about them."

Why should we care if a player such as slugger Barry Bonds is implicated in using performance-enhancing drugs?

Baseball fans just want to be entertained and see home runs, right? Who cares if Bonds or any other athlete trades off their future health for success now?

First off, Pound said, because it's cheating.

"Way below Barry Bonds are Triple-A, Double-A, Single-A college and high school players, who all think that that's the way to get where Barry is," he said.

"The base of the baseball pyramid is several hundred thousand kids. Then you add the football pyramid, the basketball pyramid and the hockey pyramid and you've got a public health problem.

"A bad example can be as powerful as good. That's the risk."

The drug sleuths are battling every day to try and keep up with the bad guys' new designer drugs and masking agents.

GENETIC THREAT

On the horizon is the manipulation of genes.

"The genetic thing is the next new dimension coming down the road," said Pound. "The other stuff is complicated science, but it's not rocket science. We've let the genie out of the bottle for the last 25 or 30 years, and now it's a matter of catching up and getting it back in the bottle.

"The gene stuff is a new, emerging field. You can tweak a gene and get 15% more muscle bulk without even doing any exercise. That gets pretty scary. You're right at the base of what defines humanity. That is the Frankenstein nightmare that everybody is having."

WADA has been working with scientists in the area of gene therapy to come up with a test to detect the manipulation of genes to improve athletic performance.

There's more testing in sports now, and Pound hopes Inside Dope will help parents and their children understand first of all that using drugs is cheating, and that in many cases -- and for some unscrupulous coaches -- it is a dangerous way of doing business.

Parents need to protect their kids.

"Do you know who your kids' coach is?" asked Pound. "Who is this person who might have more influence over your kid than you do as a parent? What is he or she saying to your child? The thing is to be aware it is out there.

"All these things are incremental. You just slip a little bit here and a little bit there and then all of a sudden, it's 'Oh, God, how did I get here?' The nature of what I have to do is confront reality and the denial that is out there.

"I'm asked a lot, 'When will you have won the war against drugs in sport?' I would say when we've persuaded the 99.9% not to do it because it's wrong and dangerous, and we can assure them that we'll catch the .1% and take them out."


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