The new issue of Wired just hit the streets -- it includes a profile I wrote about Dick Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. The story is also available online.

First things first: There's one factual error in the story which made it way in there during the editing process. The story reads, "Tour winner Floyd Landis tested positive for abnormally high testosterone," which is incorrect. As those who have been following the Landis case closely know, Floyd didn't have abnormally high testosterone; he had an abnormal ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. In fact, the absolute levels of testosterone in Lansis's system, by my reading of the lab data, were in the normal range. I regret the error made it into print, and we'll get it fixed online after I get back from the holiday.

Now, onto the reaction, and some more thoughts.

Over at Trust but Verify, the essential clearinghouse blog about the Landis case in particular, they write:

Wired runs a long story by Mark McClusky about Mr. Pound, including Landis. It's a double edged article. Email to us about it splits between views that it puffs Pound, vs. it being reasonably fair. It appears to us that it accepts the idea of WADA, but is skeptical of Pound's ability to lead with credibility, highlighting many of his ethically challenged utterances.

I'm surprised to hear that there was email viewing the story as a puff piece about Pound. I think that to read it that way, you have to be utterly convinced that Dick Pound is evil incarnate, and that any attempt to understand the man and his career is puffery.

That's simply not the case. Pound's an easy man to demonize, but in person, I found him sharp and funny and easy to be around. And I think it's important to acknowledge his achievements. They really don't make them like Pound these days. He's a throwback to a different time.

Spinopsys makes this point well in his post about the story:

Pound is entrepreneurial in the old fashioned sense of the word, something seen in his negotiations with the networks and rights holders - the kind who used to build railroads and newspapers - hardheaded, idiosyncratic, demanding, full of bluff and bluster, and not afraid to crack a few heads or eggs in the process of building something new.

I find there's a lot to admire in that sort of drive and determination. But as I hope the story makes clear, there's a difference between being the visionary who can wrangle an organization like WADA into existence, and being the right man to lead it going forward.

Rant Your Head Off takes a moment to analyze the construction of the story:

The article strives for a certain balance between Pound’s legitimate accomplishments, and his inability to live up to the rules he, himself, created. To analyze the reporting a bit, one common technique in journalism is, rather than inject your own opinion, let the subject, him/herself, do the job of pointing out their own foibles. Dick Pound fell right into that trap.

Pound's public statements really are a mystery to me. It seems clear that he thinks that the lawyerly disclaimers he throws in at the start of an interview are enough -- I don't know why he doesn't realize that, from a perception standpoint, they aren't nearly enough. As he says in the article, he views his role as prosecutorial, and that's clear from what he says and how he says it.

And I think that's the clear failing of WADA under Pound. It's turned the system into a adversarial process. I don't know that there's anyone who's happy about the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports, from administrators, to fans, to clean athletes. And I do think that WADA can provide a framework to help decrease the problem.

But right now, the athletes don't trust the system. They see it as arbitrary, and out for blood. Until you have some sort of system that athletes buy into, I don't know that you'll ever get anywhere.

There's also more discussion at the Daily Peloton Forums, where I'm gratified to see that most folks seem to think it was a solid story.

AuthorMark McClusky
CategoriesSports, Wired