David Owen

Nine VIPs - go on, count them - appended comments to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) media release headlined, "Tributes pour in for retiring WADA Board member and founding President Richard Pound".

The release was triggered by the ending of Pound’s last term on WADA’s Foundation Board on December 31.

Yet this cessation is of more symbolic than of actual significance.

Pound stepped down as WADA President in 2007, a considerable time ago now.

The next Foundation Board meeting will not even be the first one he has not attended: that came in May 2019, when a Montreal gathering clashed with a family holiday that could not realistically be rescheduled.

Nor is Pound, a former international swimmer whose 79th birthday falls next March, retiring from the coal-face of international sports administration in any meaningful sense.

He remains doyen of the most prestigious club in sport, the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

His interventions at IOC Sessions remain much more worth listening to than most.

I for one do not plan to pen any valetes until the end of next year when he ceases to fulfil this doyen function.

I am sure it is not just my jaundiced journalist’s perspective that leads me to the view that there are some in world sport who seem almost too keen to see the back of the plain-speaking, punctilious and immensely knowledgeable Canadian lawyer.

Richard Pound has left the World Anti-Doping Agency Foundation Board ©Getty Images
Richard Pound has left the World Anti-Doping Agency Foundation Board ©Getty Images

We reporters, as you know, are bad people, so it often amuses us to imagine the flap in public relations circles when the phrase "Dick Pound" is trending on social media platforms

"What has he said now?" we picture them asking.

It is one of the ironies of the time in which we live that Pound’s words seem to acquire more traction than might otherwise be the case in mainstream and youth-oriented online conversations because his name can be construed as a lewd pun.

Having said that, Pound is not one of the top sports power-brokers any more.

If his remarks continue to be reported as widely as they are around the world, it is partly sports leaders’ own doing.

While he is sometimes regarded as a disruptive influence, it has never once seemed to me, in nigh on 20 years of dealing with him, that he has anything other than the best interests of the Olympic Movement to heart.

But he also has a tendency to give straight answers to straight questions.

That this quality continues to attract reporters like moths to a flame with Pound within touching-distance of his ninth decade is a reflection of how scarce straight answers to straight questions have become.

It happened again last week, with the realisation beginning to dawn on people that, with the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics due to start on July 23, athletes might need to feature relatively early in national queues for COVID-19 vaccinations, especially in the developing world.

Richard Pound's tendency to give straight answers to straight questions attracts reporters' enquiries ©Getty Images
Richard Pound's tendency to give straight answers to straight questions attracts reporters' enquiries ©Getty Images

Thinking about the position in his own country, Pound told Sky News, "In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 athletes - to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level - I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that."

He added: "It’s a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue, but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead."

You might not agree with Pound’s position, but, assuming we are still going to try and defy the rampaging pandemic by staging some sort of Olympic event in six months’ time, it seems to me altogether healthy that people around the world should be thinking about this.

Thanks to the Canadian’s intervention, a lot more will have done so over the past few days.

There is no doubt that when he does call it a day, Pound - who must be among the 10 or so most important sports industry "suits" of the past half-century, even if he did fall short of the top job - will be missed.

There is equally no doubt that his plain-speaking though lawyerly interventions will be missed particularly by reporters.

But I feel confident in asserting that, much as some might wish otherwise, this Clint Eastwood-style verbal gunslinger will not be riding off into the sunset for a few years yet.