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Was Dick Pound's motive sinister?

with Clare Forrester
Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The statement by Richard 'Dick' Pound to Reuters Television that Jamaican athletes belong to "one of the groups that is hard to test" surprised and confused me. Moreso since I was in London for the track and field segment of the wonderfully competitive Olympics. Pound is a long-standing member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and former chairman of the World-Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Immediately on my return to Jamaica and before writing about the outstanding performance of so many of our Jamaican athletes, I sought the opinion of my colleague and friend, Ambassador Byron Blake, a veteran of international politics, negotiations and intrigue.

Ambassador Blake explained that "Dick Pound's words, intent, choice of media and timing are typical of international politics and intrigue; don't make the mistake of thinking that major global events like the Olympics, World Cup Football, and Cricket World Cup are not laced with politics".

According to Ambassador Blake, who has led the G77 and China, a UN economic negotiating bloc, twice in head-to-head negotiations with the world's major powers: "Jamaica, a small developing country, surprised the superpowers of world sprinting in Beijing in 2008 and repeated the feat in London. Its athletes have captured the imagination of the people of the world, and hence media and business advertising and sponsorship attention. It looks set to repeat in 2016 in Rio. That must not be allowed to happen."

"The strategy," says Blake, "is first to turn the public's admiration into disappointment and anger. The best time to do that is when the crowd is at the highest point of ecstasy. If it sounds like the 'Jesus story', it is. Crowds can move from highest points of admiration to denial and betrayal in a minute when they are all in one place. Fire the poison bullet at that point."

The typical tactic is an "impeccable" silver bullet. According to Blake, this usually comes in the form of a short unsubstantiated statement from a "reputable" expert, in a reputable medium, and as has happened in this case, linked to a reputable international body. What better choice of silver bullet than Richard Pound, a Canadian QC? "Who would dare to question a statement by Mr Pound of the IOC and WADA published by Reuters?"

The usual tendency, Blake argues, is for international and local media to repeat the statement -- as breaking or headline news. Experts now begin to find the evidence or to defend -- both of which give further life to the story. The generator(s) of the story quietly retreat into the background. Job done -- the seeds of doubt are left to germinate and grow.

Blake illustrates this by the discussions which erupted in the CVM Olympic commentary box upon receipt of word of Mr Pound's statement. One of the analysts immediately jumped from rationale commentator on the races to a defender and promoter of Mr Pound. In his view, it was all the fault and failure of the Jamaica sports authorities why people can say these things with justification.

In fact, according to this commentator, it is the habit of Jamaica to procrastinate and hide why the country is in economic difficulty. It did not matter to him where Mr Pound was from, what his motives might have been and certainly not what facts he might have used. Such unsubstantiated statements will now become the facts and the evidence to be quoted hereafter. The other analyst, who maintained that he did not have the information base on which to make an intelligent comment, will become irrelevant.

Questions and facts are almost irrelevant. For example, who cares that:

(i) Mr Bolt, a country boy whose parents could hardly afford food for the table and who intended to be a football player, was, at ages 14 and 15, running world-leading times without the benefit of sophisticated coaching or before the intervention of PUMA's sponsorship?

(ii) Veronica Campbell Brown (VCB) and Yohan Blake, also from deep rural Jamaica, became global forces from their teenage, high school years in Jamaica.

(iii) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Melaine Walker are from inner-city communities where their parents and/or guardians were so economically challenged that any resource they laid hands on would have gone to food and possibly shoes.

(iv) Jamaica is only 144 square miles with two international airports and no longer boasts five flights a day to Miami. Its citizens, including athletes, are required to have visas to travel even to the Cayman Islands, 20 minutes away. Further, the athletes must report on their movements.

(v) The two major training clubs are located on public university campuses within a mile of each other.

(vi) Most, or all of the local-based elite athletes, reside within the Corporate Area, which is only 185.3 square miles; the others reside and train predominantly in the United States or Europe.

(vii) All major local meets, including school programmes, are held at the National Stadium and are well advertised.

(viii) Most of the country's elite athletes are involved in international competitions and so are subject to testing in the host countries.

(ix) Disgraced Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings, who lived and trained in the US, was unmasked by the Jamaica drug-testing process.

(x) Jamaica has been producing athletes of the highest calibre and setting world records since 1948, and more so since 1952.

xi) Many other athletes, besides Jamaicans, achieved personal best times and distances in London.

(xii) Mr Pound has been away from WADA since 2007.

The above facts and issues seldom attract attention.

According to Blake, while it is interesting to note the statement by WADA with respect to Jamaica's anti-doping programme, it is more important to note that it neither referenced nor repudiated Mr Pound's charges. It was cleverly side-stepped. Also, not to be overlooked is the fact that the IOC, which controlled both the Beijing and London Olympics, has made no comment on Pound's unsubstantiated allegations. This is not unusual. International institutions increasingly allow their names to be used for the objectives of the payer of the piper. He referenced the World Bank in the Banana dispute between the Caribbean and the giants United States and Chiquita.

Given his years of contribution to the IOC and world sports, I wish my conclusion regarding Mr Pound's motives could be deemed other than sinister, but in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that conclusion stands.


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