Interview with Former Anti-Doping Czar 'Doping Is Organized along Mafia Lines'

For years, Richard Pound was the world's top anti-doping official. SPIEGEL spoke with him about scary new doping possibilities, the culture of performance enhancement in cycling and mistakes made at the Olympics in Beijing.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Pound, 11 months ago, your stint as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, came to an end. Do you miss the job?

Pound: It is fun to be the head of something; I like being able to make things happen, to direct people. But do I miss the job? No. I did it for eight years; it was time to go. The cemeteries are full of people who think they are irreplaceable.

SPIEGEL: One of your last official duties was a meeting with Victor Conte, who for years supplied an undetectable drug to American athletes. Conte says he gave you the name, address and telephone number of a doping dealer who works with Jamaican track and field athletes, and that he advised you to conduct an undercover investigation. What did you do?

Pound: At the time, I talked to Conte about the way in which a doping system operates, how underground laboratories work. I promised him I would not reveal any details of our conversation to the general public. That would be like a police inspector passing on the statement made by a witness straight to the press. I can tell you that Conte had some very interesting things to say, things that I was not yet aware of. He also said that he had documents which he would only be able to show us this year. That was two weeks before I took leave. I passed on all the information to the WADA General Director David Howman.

SPIEGEL: Do you know what happened to the material?

Pound: I thought WADA could manage to crack a doping ring if it stuck at it. If I had still been the president I would have met up with Conte a few more times. But the present management does not seem to consider that necessary. I’m disappointed; I was convinced we could have made additional and better informed progress.

SPIEGEL: What went through your mind when Jamaica’s Usain Bolt set new world records in the 100 and 200 meter races at the Olympic Games in Beijing?

Pound: Well... what can I say? It was an extraordinary achievement.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe that Bolt is clean?

Pound: I would rather not answer that question. Generally speaking everyone now has doubts when an athlete who has never stood out before suddenly excels himself.

SPIEGEL: No independent doping tests are carried out in Jamaica. Why not?

Pound: We created a regional anti-doping agency for the Caribbean. I do not know what degree of out-of-competition tests were performed.

SPIEGEL: Couldn’t WADA force it to?

Pound: No. But the IOC can rule that countries that do not stick to the rules are excluded from the Olympic Games.

SPIEGEL: Do you think Rogge is doing a good job?

Pound: Seven years ago I ran against him and lost; anything I were to say against his presidency would be interpreted as jealousy. So I won’t comment on that. But I do think the IOC has made a number of very serious mistakes, particularly as regards the Games in China.

SPIEGEL: What mistakes?

Pound: The IOC jeopardized the games’ going ahead. The way it dealt with the torch relay and the delay in getting sufficient Internet-access.

SPIEGEL: Are you surprised that Rogge is running again next year?

Pound: I would have been surprised if he hadn’t.

SPIEGEL: Will anyone run against him?

Pound: No.

SPIEGEL: You won’t run again?

Pound: I had my chance. Besides I have learned in the meantime that I am not cut out for that job.

SPIEGEL: Why not?

Pound: I’m not gentle enough. The IOC President has to be pliable. I’m not; I like to take aggressive action. I think that intimidates people.

SPIEGEL: During the Olympic Games there were omissions during the doping tests; at the moment all the samples are being tested again for the drug CERA. What result are you expecting?

Pound: I don’t know. What is clear is that CERA was used during the Tour de France, so I wouldn’t rule out its having been used at the Games too. However since the Tour, since they caught Ricardo Ricco, the athletes know that we can detect CERA. So anyone who took it in Beijing must have an IQ below room temperature.

SPIEGEL: Hein Verbruggen, the former president of the International Cycling Union, and his successor, the Irishman Patrick McQuaid, are against follow-up tests. How do you explain that?

Pound: I’m not surprised they don’t want these tests. The two of them also claim in all seriousness that there is no serious doping problem in competitive cycling. That’s ridiculous. Doping is not an exception in cycling, there is a doping culture.

SPIEGEL: The doping dealer Angel Heredia says there are countless underground laboratories that manufacture drugs which cannot be detected by doping tests. Isn’t WADA fighting a battle it cannot win?

Pound: It will always be a race between the cheater and those who are playing fair, but we are reducing the gap. Our aim has to be for 99.9 percent of athletes not to dope, and for us to catch the remaining 0.1 percent.

SPIEGEL: But surely that’s unrealistic.

Pound: Do you think so? When I got my driving license, cars with seatbelts didn’t exist. Then wearing a seatbelt was voluntary, and eventually it became mandatory. Now, you have to pay a fine if you don’t wear one. But I don’t put on my seatbelt nowadays to avoid being punished; I put on my seatbelt because I have understood that it is dangerous not to. And I attribute that much common sense to athletes too. It’s a question of changing their attitude. Perhaps we’ll be there in 15 years.

SPIEGEL: How does WADA intend to deal with organized doping crime?

Pound: The doping system is organized along mafia-like lines. So what we need is close collaboration with the police and public prosecutors. Our weapons are too limited; we can only test urine and blood. Police investigators can read e-mails, tap telephones. Their arsenal is bigger than a bottle of pee. Getting the executive authorities onto our side is an arduous process, but we have recently started working with Interpol. Step by step we are moving ahead.

SPIEGEL: Should people who resort to doping be put behind bars?


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