The man who knows more about the state of the Olympic Games than just about anybody on the International Olympic Committee isn't exactly predicting disaster for the forthcoming Athens Olympics. But turmoil, oh yes.
Dick Pound, the IOC financial guru who produced more than $10 billion in contracts for the governing body the past 20 years, sees pollution -- air and drugs -- as joining security concerns and incomplete infrastructure as making the birthplace of the Games a questionable host.
Pound was at Western yesterday to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. The former Olympic swimmer, lawyer, chartered accountant and chancellor of McGill University has always said doping is "the greatest danger facing sports today."
First, the drugs. There's a chance some high-profile U.S. sprint stars will be banned. Pound is director of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which is closing in on athletes using performance-enhancing drugs.
There is a current steroid investigation involving world 100-metre record-holder Tim Montgomery and his girlfriend, five-time Olympic medallist Marion Jones. Neither has tested positive.
"What they're trying to say is 'The only way to get me is if you get a sample from me that tests positive,' " Pound said in an interview. "We're saying 'Nonsense, that's just evidence of one sort.'
Montgomery and the dash diva could be on the sidelines of the Games' showcase events.
"Clearly, with Montgomery the investigators say they have enough evidence," Pound said. "In typical American fashion, (the investigators) circle around and get the small fish and close in on the big ones. Marion Jones is clearly a target."
In his well-crafted book Inside The Olympics, which has just been released, Pound dwells on the drug threat. WADA, though, appears to be working.
"If you're a doper, you take the first step so you have a slight advantage and we're one step behind." he said yesterday. "There are coaches and athletes and scientists out there who are sociopaths, who don't care about rules. But as soon as we get a sample of the stuff, a test can be developed within weeks and that drug is finished."
As for the August Games, organizers insist any air pollution in Athens will be blown away by Mediterranean breezes. Pound says he's awaiting the miracle. Other aspects remain in doubt, he added.
"They'll get the core stuff done, the venues and sports facilities, the athletes' village, the international broadcast centre, the transportation system for athletes and officials and will have a pretty effective security perimeter around all of it," he predicted. "But they aren't going to have all the subways required to move (the fans) around in an old city.
"They've done a good job on security, as much as can be done. But the border is very porous and there are some very, very bad guys on the other side."
The commercial port will continue to operate, he added, and the floating palaces of the Mediterranean could offer terrorist staging points.
For a guy kicked in the groin and stabbed in the back by the IOC, the guy who has done most to restore credibility to the Olympic movement by meeting drugs head on while negotiating enormous television contracts shows remarkable forbearance.
He was the obvious choice to succeed president Juan Antonio Samaranch, but was sandbagged by the Eurocentric IOC. In his book, he is extremely even-handed as regards his old boss.
The 2006 Winter Games will be in Italy, the 2008 Summer Games in China, the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Nine cities are vying for the 2012 Summer Games. Pound suspects the finalists will be Madrid, Paris and London.
"I think it will be London and Paris and a knee-kicking, eye-gouging struggle between them," he added.
Of anybody, Dick Pound would know.