Published: Thursday January 24, 2013 MYT 10:48:00 PM
Mandela the greatest for IOC chief Jacques Rogge
LAUSANNE: Former South African President Nelson Mandela is the most impressive personality International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has met during his 12 years in office.
Rogge will step down in September after a largely successful period in office during which he said he had met many "fabulous" people and also some "disappointing" ones.
However, while he would not elaborate on whom he considered to be disappointing he was unequivocal about who he had been most impressed by.
"Nelson Mandela," he told AFP in an exclusive interview conducted at IOC headquarters.
"I have tremendous respect for him. He is very approachable. One feels almost humble in his presence.
"He is revered in his lifetime and will be afterwards. He is an iconic figure."
Rogge also said he had enjoyed a light hearted moment with regard to another head of state, British monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
At the opening ceremony for last year's London Olympics a double of the Queen was seen jumping out of a helicopter with legendary secret service agent James Bond and landing in the Olympic stadium.
Rogge, who was standing not far from the real and smiling Queen in the anteroom to the entrance to the VIP seats watching it on television, said only in Britain could that have taken place.
"It was a great moment," he said chuckling.
"It was British humour at its best. It could only happen in the UK!"
On Lance Armstrong's doping scandal, Rogge said it was both disappointing and sad.
He added that if the American was truly contrite he could in future act as an example to younger cyclists.
Armstrong had already been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and his 2000 Olympic bronze medal before making his personal confession to American talk show host Oprah Winfrey last week.
"Armstrong's is a sad story but one has to take this as an opportunity," Rogge said.
"It is a pivotal moment for cycling.
"There is a new spirit within cycling. The fight should be intensified in terms of the role the entourage has played.
"The athletes are not the only ones implicated in doping.
"The entourage gives bad advice to the athletes."
Rogge, who has made the fight against doping one of his major policies during his presidency, said it would be important how Armstrong conducted himself in the aftermath of his guilt admission.
"If he shows remorse and contrition as he appeared to do in the interview it would be a good example for younger cyclists," he said.
Rogge, who refused to comment on senior IOC member and former WADA chief Dick Pound's remark that cycling could be excluded from the Games, said the doping by Armstrong and fallen athlete Marion Jones was easier to escape undetected then.
"I cannot condone the culture at the time but in those days there were flaws in the dope testing methodology," he said.
"There was not a very solid test for EPO nor a test for Human Growth Hormone, where the athletes were so they could be tested out of competition and no blood-doping test.
"All those are in place now. Most importantly we have the judicial authorities in foreign countries helping us and above all the biological passports which is a very powerful weapon against doping."
Rogge, who said he hoped cycling's governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), and WADA would mend the fences between each other, said it was premature for people to be looking at UCI president Pat McQuaid to resign over the Armstrong affair or for his predecessor Hein Verbruggen to step down from the IOC.
"Calls for resignation are only valid once guilt has been proven," he said.
"First the investigation then the judgement and then the punishment, not the reverse order."