Former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Richard Pound is stepping back into the spotlight as chairman of a three-member Commission set up to investigate German television allegations that have this month shaken the bedrock Olympic sport of athletics.The independent Commission – which will also include Professor Richard McLaren, a Canadian legal counsel who has served on the ad hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) at several Olympic Games, and a third member who has still to be named – will formally initiate the investigation next month.
Its work will, accordingly, be undertaken under the provisions of the new and significantly amended World Anti-Doping Code, which takes effect on January 1.
The current storm – ahead of a keenly anticipated International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Presidential contest that is expected to pit two out-and-out stars of the sport, Sebastian Coe and Sergey Bubka, against one another – was touched off by allegations of a cover-up of systematic doping in Russia, with a German television investigation broadcast on ARD accusing a large number of Russian athletes of being implicated.
Since then, Russian Athletics Federation President Valentin Balakhnichev has stepped down from his position as IAAF treasurer, and IAAF marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack, son of the body’s current President Lamine Diack, has also temporarily taken a break from his position.
There are also claims that a list exists naming 150 athletes, of various nationalities, with suspicious blood results taken between 2006 to 2008, although, as IAAF deputy general secretary Nick Davies has asserted, a single blood value reading “in itself is worthless as evidence of doping”.
A WADA statement today announcing details of the Commission said its role would be to establish:
● “If there have been any breaches of World Anti-Doping Code or International Standard processes or rules by signatories to the Code;
● “If there have been any breaches of rules by WADA-accredited laboratories;
● “If there have been any breaches of anti-doping rules by athletes and their entourage members (including coaches, trainers and doctors).”
WADA said the Commission would also “gather information and explore whether sufficient evidence exists that could lead to sanctions against any individual or organization under rules of the World Anti-Doping Code”.
Sir Craig Reedie, WADA President, said the body was pleased that Messrs Pound and McLaren had agreed to look into the “grave doping allegations that came to light through the recent German television broadcasts”.
The Commission, he said, had the “vital task” of reviewing allegations aired during the documentaries, “as well as all other information received separately by WADA, to determine if there have been any violations to anti-doping rules”.
Sir Craig went on: “Once the investigation is concluded, if it is found that there have been violations or breaches of the rules, WADA will ensure that any individuals or organizations concerned are dealt with in an appropriate fashion under the World Anti-Doping Code.”
The Commission would, he said, be given “the resources it needs in order for the investigation to be carried out thoroughly, and so that, in turn, clean athletes across the world are reassured that the anti-doping system is working in their best interests”.
For the IAAF, President Diack underlined the body’s “full support” of the WADA investigation, saying: “Our primary concern must always be to protect the integrity of competition in support of the vast majority of clean athletes, and we look forward to working with WADA to this end.”
The athletics governing body also stated that an investigation by its independent Ethics Commission into “related and separate allegations made against certain individuals and the administration of the sport” would “ensure all matters of concern are thoroughly and rigorously examined”.
It went on: “To underline the independence of the process, it should be noted that the IAAF Ethics Commission is not required to keep the IAAF informed or consulted about the initiation, details or progress of an investigation”.
Pound, 72, a straight-talking and hugely respected former Olympic swimmer from Canada who has been an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member for 36 years, served as the first WADA President between 1999 and 2008.
IAAF Presidential candidate Coe on Sunday (December 14) suggested that the current allegations, if proven, would be “up there” with historical scandals involving Ben Johnson and Marion Jones.
This is familiar territory for Pound, a lawyer, who represented Johnson at the IOC Medical Commission meeting that followed his positive test at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Pound wrote about the experience in his 2004 book, Inside the Olympics.
This article was republished with permission from the author, David Owen. The original article was published with inside the games.