Pound loves making headlines

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Dick Pound is prone to statements that come out looking like they are steroid enhanced.

The president of the World Anti-Doping Association has made pumped up, muscle-popping claims before. Many come from out of the blue, where the shock value is often more effective than the actual information he provides.

Whether the information is accurate or not is often impossible to prove. One is left relying on his or her own level of credulity. Is the statement realistic and if so, how can anyone find the proof? When does fact become fairy tale?

Pound for pound, Dick ranks as one of the greatest publicity hounds around.

Pound loves the limelight. He's a seeker of headlines, the microphone, the television camera. He uses the publicity in part for his battle against drugs in sports. But the other part is more self-serving. He just likes being in the news.

Pound rolled into London Thursday and addressed a group of law students claiming that as many as one-third of National Hockey League players were on some form of performance-enhancing drugs. He knew the reaction that would come. He recognized it would make headlines throughout the hockey world.

This is the same man who six years ago, at the height of the bribery scandal involving the Salt Lake City Olympics, calmly announced at a speech in Kitchener to a group of business people that he was offered a $1-million bribe in connection with a television contract. At the time, he was the International Olympic Committee vice-president.

He was asked about details and refused to provide them, simply saying the issue had been dealt with. He was asked about proof and he said, "The key is not that the crisis occurred, but how you deal with the crisis."

Pound is not a stupid man. He knew his statement about the NHL would be labeled as irresponsible. He also knew there was no way to prove its validity short of testing every player. It's easier to slander an entire group but far more difficult to slander individuals.

He can't prove its validity. But neither can the NHL. It hasn't tested before.

Pound has his headlines, he has the NHL's attention -- knowing the NHL drug-testing policy has more holes in it than the Toronto Maple Leafs defence and the league really has no interest in making it stronger.

Begininng Jan. 15, NHL players are subject to a minimum of two drug tests a year without warning. A first-time offender will receive a 20-game suspension, a repeat offender will be suspended for 60 games and a permanent ban will follow a third offence.

If an NHL player participates in international events like the Olympics, he is subject to those drug tests and policies. No Canadian hockey player has yet been caught with performance-enhancing drugs in his system.

The NHL policy is a joke. That's why its response to Pound was milquetoast compared to what it should have been.

A truly outraged institution would have gone to WADA and demanded proof, some sort of accountability for its leader and thrown a building of lawyers at it.

That aside, Pound did himself no favours. He has become the poster boy for statements lacking validity and research. Pound's mathematics means with 700 players in the NHL, more than 230 of them would be on some form of performance-enhancing drug. A team with 22 players on its roster would find seven of those players on some form of enhancer. That type of wild statement demands some proof.

If that's the case, the expectation is that Pound would follow up his London pronouncement with some actual proof. Dogged assertions from Pound that indeed that's the case aren't good enough.

WADA should demand this type of proof from its leader. Its own credibility and effectiveness is under scrutiny.

When Pound speaks, people don't look for drug abusers, they look to see where the television cameras and microphones are located instead.


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