By Phillip Whitten
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, November 20. PRINCE Alexandre de Merode, the controversial head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical Commission and an IOC member since 1964, died today at the age of 68.
The IOC released the following statement: "It was with great sadness that the International Olympic Committee learned this morning of the death of Prince Alexandre de Merode, an IOC Member since 1964. The IOC expresses its deepest sympathy to the Prince de Merode's family."
From Havana, Cuba, which he currently is visiting, IOC President Jacques Rogge, a fellow Belgian, immediately declared: "The Olympic Movement has lost an exceptional man. Through his charisma and his
convictions, the Prince de Merode was a fervent defender of Olympic values throughout his life. He was, in particular, one of the pioneers in the fight against doping, creating the IOC Medical Commission in 1967. His ideas and energy helped to begin an unceasing fight against doping and any activity damaging the integrity of sport. We have all lost a remarkable colleague, a humanist at the service of sport."
Not everyone shared that assessment. Critics cited his reluctance to extend drug-testing to new performance-enhancing substances; his opposition to developing new and more sensitive testing protocols; his opposition to stiff penalties for athletes found to have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs; and the mysterious disappearance from under his control of alleged positive test results from a number of high-profile athletes.
Born in 1934 in Etterbek (Belgium), the Prince de Merode began his career as President of the Belgian Supreme Council for Physical Education, Sport and Outdoor Life. He then went on to head the Anti-Doping Commission of the Belgian Ministry of Public Health (French Community), before becoming an administrator within the Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee.
In the IOC, he was a close confidant of President Juan Antonio samaranch, a member of the Executive Board from 1980 to 1990, Vice-President from 1986 to 1990 and
from 1994 to 1998, and Chairman of the Medical Commission from 1967 onwards. In 1999, the Prince de Merode was appointed a member of the IOC 2000 Reform Commission.