Mtre Richard W. Pound

Mtre Richard W. Pound : Uncompromising integrity
By Mélanie Dugré, lawyer
(Article published on August 22, 2017)

On September 7, 2017, at the ceremony of the Journée du Barreau, Mtre Richard W. Pound will be awarded the Bar of Montreal Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the cause of justice.

Richard Pound arrived in Montreal in 1957 and attended McGill University, after moving frequently because of his father’s postings as an engineer. On the strength of his experience in Ocean Falls, British Columbia (a village of 3,000 inhabitants, encircled by water, whose children were all taught to swim for fear of drowning), he continued to excel in swimming on the university team. He took part in the 1959 Pan American Games and the 1962 Commonwealth Games and won four medals, including gold, which brought him to the Olympics in Rome in 1960. Richard’s eyes shine at the memory of his aircraft’s descent into Rome, with the Colosseum and the Vatican appearing on the horizon. Heady from his experience at the Olympics, with two finals in swimming, he promised himself to invest the time and effort needed to allow future athletes to also enjoy the Olympic experience.

This elite swimmer finished his university education, first in accounting and then in law. Upon being admitted to the Bar, he started a tax law practice and then joined the Stikeman Elliott team in 1972. Times were good and tax law was constantly evolving, particularly since the filing of the Carter Commission report in 1966. Richard Pound tells of his pleasure in pleading before the tax courts and the constant challenge of making the position he was defending sufficiently attractive to obtain the court’s approval. In addition to teaching tax law, he created a highly anticipated event with his Pound’s Tax Case Notes, an annual periodical in which, like a movie critic, he gives star ratings to tax law court judgments rendered during the year.

Much to his surprise, he was offered the position of Secretary General of the Canadian Olympic Committee in 1968. This was no small task, but as a result of his hard work and that of the entire Committee, Montreal was confirmed as the host city of the 1976 Games.

He went from Secretary General to President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, and then in 1978, at the age of 36, he became the youngest member of the International Olympic Committee.  For 18 years, he sat on the IOC Executive Board, an experience with great moments of excitement that also honed his ability to adapt to situations by taking him out of his comfort zone.

In 1983, Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the IOC, asked him to negotiate television broadcasting conditions for the Olympic Games, which he did brilliantly for the Calgary Games up to the Beijing Games in 2008. Based on this success, he was appointed Chairman of the IOC Marketing Committee, an area with which he was completely unfamiliar, as had been the case for television rights. This intrepid lawyer gladly accepted these assignments, and acknowledges today that his tax law expertise and ability to deal with change helped him greatly in performing his various IOC mandates.

Of course, you cannot talk about Richard Pound without mentioning the colossal battle he has waged against doping in sport. His first contact with doping was in Seoul in 1988. While his role was supposed to be limited to selling television rights and marketing, Richard found himself managing a full-blown crisis when the news of Ben Johnson’s positive test exploded. Caught between a rock and a hard place, he had the difficult task of participating in the decision to disqualify Ben Johnson. While the shockwaves were brutal, Richard Pound was hopeful that people would get the message. Unfortunately, with the Festina scandal 10 years later at the Tour de France, he had to admit that the message had not gotten through. It was during this dark time—when it was impossible to know for sure whether countries and federations were supporting only “clean” athletes—that the idea was born of having an independent international anti-doping agency over which no one stakeholder would have control.

A task force was set up in 1999 and Mr. Samaranch asked the man he knew he could trust to “temporarily” take the job of president of the new World Anti-Doping Agency. Richard was to remain there for nine years and played a leading role in the Agency’s strategic decisions and orientations. The learning curve was once again fairly steep, considering that 50% of the sport disciplines at the Summer Olympics did not allow screening for doping substances outside competition. Each individual sport federation in every country had its own list of prohibited substances and a variety of sanctions, so that the task of standardizing them was mammoth. Nevertheless, the mission was accomplished with the adoption of the World Anti-Doping Code, which came into force just in time for the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Richard Pound is passionate about his crusade against doping, convinced that the money and effort invested are helping to sensitize people to the problem, and are leading to a certain collective indignation toward cheating. Despite numerous victories, the war on doping will never really be over, because new forms of doping are emerging all the time, the result of creativity on the part of cheaters who are all too often sponsored by governments. It is with some bitterness that Richard talks about “a missed opportunity” regarding the scandal at the Rio Games involving the Russian government.

Richard Pound’s two passions, sports and law, have taught him the same lesson: the importance of the rule of law. There is a reason for having rules, whether in taxation or in sports. Lying and cheating, though they may seem to pay off in the short term, bring with them the risk of a tarnished reputation. Playing by the rules must therefore be a basic value, a value that Richard Pound will always vigorously defend, adding, with the wisdom of experience, that: “Somebody, somewhere, always knows…”