Dick Pound held almost every International Olympic Committee job there was except president during his 44 years as a member.
Having reached his mandatory retirement age of 80 in March, the Canadian dubbed “our dean” by current IOC president Thomas Bach will step down.
Pound continues as an honorary member after transforming the Olympic landscape in the arenas of television and marketing rights, and anti-doping.
His involvement in the Olympic movement spans mroe than 60 years starting in 1960, when the swimmer from St. Catharines, Ont., competed in Rome’s Summer Games while a law student at McGill.
Pound joined the IOC in 1978. The organization’s longest-serving member will exit at the end of 2022 when he assumes honorary status.
“After that, you don’t have a vote anymore. You’re invited to meetings and to Olympic Games, but you don’t really have active duties other than to dispense wise advice that nobody listens to,” Pound told The Canadian Press with a chuckle.
IOC members elected after 1999 must retire at age 70.
Pound served on the IOC’s executive board, twice as a vice-president, for 18 years starting in 1983.
He was routinely appointed the fixer of the IOC’s internal and external problems, and was thus a driver of reform, particularly during the presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch from 1980 to 2001.
“He had self-confidence and he was prepared to delegate,” Pound said. “He said ‘listen, just tell me what’s going on. Even if nothing’s going on, call me once in awhile and tell me that nothing’s going on.’
“I work fairly quickly. Most lawyers look at a blank page and they’re paralyzed. If you give them a draft contract they can make it better, but if you give them a blank sheet of paper, it’s very hard for them to push the first key.
“I never had that problem. I write reasonably well and quickly and basically don’t get involved in nonsense or useless talk.”
The vigour Pound applied in holding the IOC to account, and his occasional unfiltered public remarks while doing it, nettled his fellow-members.
That cost the Montreal tax lawyer the votes required to succeed Samaranch in 2001.
Pound had just led an investigation into IOC members taking bribes over the awarding of the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City.
Ten members resigned or were expelled, but Pound paid a political price. Jacques Rogge of Belgium was elected president and Pound finished third in voting.
“I knew when I got the Salt Lake City thing I was dead,” Pound said. “People like clean organizations. They don’t like the cleaners.
“I’m not the most sympathetic person in the world. Some of the folks that needed stroked a lot would prefer somebody who is a stroker rather than a doer.”
At Samaranch’s behest, Pound became the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999.
A staunch advocate for clean sport, Pound sunk his teeth into the job. He wrote in his 2004 book Inside The Olympics that doping was “the single most important problem facing sport.”
“As very much a former athlete, you never liked to lose, but you knew you couldn’t win every time,” Pound explained. “But that’s all different than being cheated out of a result. That’s what offended me about doping.”
Pound’s comments on cycling and doping resulted in a war of words with the sport’s star Lance Armstrong and the international cycling federation. Armstrong sent a letter to the IOC in 2006 demanding disciplinary action against Pound.
Armstrong admitted in 2013 that he’d taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Pound’s tenure as WADA president ended in 2007. He continued to serve on its foundation board until 2020, and he was called upon to lead a doping investigation into Russian track and field in 2015.
“We make sure the athletes know that sooner or later, you’re going to get caught,” Pound said. “We save samples for 10 years and science gets better every year.
“It’ll be 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 was the IOC’s man in the room negotiating 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 we were a kitchen-table organization. We had to reinvent ourselves and stop being risk-averse.”
Bach lauded Pound’s “direct and straightforward approach” and called him a man of “untiring inspiration and determination” at the IOC’s session in Lausanne, Switzerland in May.
“You were always able to initiate a lively dispute on many subjects,” Bach told him. “Sometimes some have perceived it has too lively, sometimes some have perceived it as too many, but we all always felt how unwavering your commitment was and is to the Olympic values, to the IOC as an organization and to clean sport.
“This commitment was and is your driving force.”
Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith is the lone remaining active IOC member from Canada.
Pound said he closed his address to IOC members in Lausanne with the words “bon courage” because they’ll need it.
“In an increasingly polarized world, it’s going to be more and more difficult to hold onto your principles, but if you don’t do that, then you’re dead in the water,” he said.