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Canadian Dick Pound’s IOC tenure ends when he retires at the age of 80

Dick Pound has held almost every position on the International Olympic Committee, with the exception of President, during his 44-year membership.

The Canadian, dubbed “our Dean” by current IOC President Thomas Bach, will step down in March upon reaching his mandatory retirement age of 80.

Pound remains an honorary member after changing the Olympic landscape in the areas of television and marketing rights and anti-doping.

His involvement with the Olympic movement spans more than 60 years, beginning in 1960 when the swimmer from St. Catharines, Ontario, attended the Rome Summer Games as a law student at McGill University.

Pound joined the IOC in 1978. The longest-serving member of the organization will retire in late 2022 when he accepts honorary status.

“You’ll have no voice after that. You get invited to meetings and to the Olympics, but you don’t really have any active duties other than giving wise advice that nobody listens to,” Pound told The Canadian Press with a chuckle.

IOC members elected after 1999 must retire at the age of 70.

engine of reform

Pound served twice as Vice-President on the IOC Board for 18 years from 1983.

He was routinely appointed fixer of the IOC’s internal and external problems and was thus an engine for reform, particularly during Juan Antonio Samaranch’s presidency from 1980 to 2001.

“He had confidence and was willing to delegate,” said Pound. “He said, ‘Listen, just tell me what’s going on. Even if there’s nothing going on, call me every once in a while and tell me there’s nothing going on.’

“I work pretty fast. Most lawyers look at a blank page and are paralyzed. If you give them a draft contract, they can improve it, but if you give them a blank sheet of paper, it’s very hard for them to pressure the first key.

“I never had that problem. I write reasonably well and quickly and generally don’t engage in nonsense or meaningless babble.”

The energy Pound expended to hold the IOC accountable, and his occasional unfiltered public statements while doing so, angered his colleagues.

Pound is shown above in 2010. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press)

Missed out in the presidential candidacy

That cost the Montreal tax attorney the votes needed to succeed Samaranch in 2001.

Pound had just opened an investigation into IOC members who accepted bribes over Salt Lake City being awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Ten members resigned or were expelled, but Pound paid a political price. Jacques Rogge of Belgium was elected President and Pound came third in the vote.

“When I got that thing from Salt Lake City, I knew I was dead,” Pound said. “People like clean organizations. They don’t like cleaners.

“I’m not the most likeable person in the world. Some of the people who need a lot of petting would prefer someone who is a petter rather than a doer.”

At Samaranch’s behest, Pound became founding President of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999.

Stand up for clean sport

A staunch advocate of a clean sport, Pound put his teeth into the job. In his 2004 book Inside The Olympics, he wrote that doping is “the number one problem in sport.”

“As a former athlete, you never liked losing, but you knew you couldn’t win every time,” Pound explained. “But that’s all different than being cheated out of a result. That hurt me about doping.”

Pound’s comments about cycling and doping led to an argument with sports star Lance Armstrong and the International Cycling Federation. Armstrong sent a letter to the IOC in 2006 calling for disciplinary action against Pound.

Armstrong admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs in 2013.

Pound’s tenure as WADA President ended in 2007. He served on the Board of Trustees until 2020 and was asked to lead a doping investigation into Russian athletics in 2015.

“We make sure the athletes know they’re going to get caught sooner or later,” Pound said. “We keep samples for 10 years and the science gets better every year.

“It’s still a work in progress because there will always be sociopaths who don’t care what they promise. They don’t care about the rules.”

Pound presents South Korean golfer In-bee Park with her gold medal at the 2016 Olympics. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

“Direct and uncomplicated approach”

Pound was the man in the IOC room who negotiated record television and marketing rights deals in the 1980s and 1990s that gave the IOC financial independence from governments and host cities.

“It was a complete paradigm shift,” Pound said. “When I joined, the analogy would have been that we were a kitchen table organization. We had to reinvent ourselves and stop being risk averse.”

Bach praised Pound’s “direct and no-nonsense approach” and called him a man of “unflagging inspiration and determination” at the May IOC meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“They could always initiate a lively dispute on many subjects,” Bach told him. “Sometimes some have found it too vivid, sometimes some have found it too much, but we all have always felt how unwavering your commitment to Olympic values, to the IOC as an organization and to clean sport was and is.

“This commitment was and is your motivation.”

Canadian Olympic Committee President Tricia Smith is the only remaining active IOC member from Canada.

Pound said he ended his address to IOC members in Lausanne by saying “cheer up” because they needed it.

“In an increasingly polarized world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stick to your principles, but if you don’t, you’re dead in the water,” he said.

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