Archive for September, 2018

A Duty To Protect?

Monday, September 24th, 2018

 The Stuff website reported today that Rotorua policeman Brendon Keenan was able to compete, and win his age-group title, in Saturday’s Tauranga International Marathon. You might think there is nothing too unusual about that. But there is. You see Brendon Keenan is serving a four year suspension from “all sport”.

Keenan was banned in July by the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand, after admitting to importing the drug Erythropoietin, (EPO), which is used by cheats to illegally increase red blood cell production. The suspension was backdated to 7 September 2017 – the date Keenan made the online purchase of the drug.

However, Keenan was allowed to run in Saturday’s race, because it was not considered an Athletics New Zealand ‘authorized’ event, and was operated by an outside promoter – Total Sport.

Stuff reporters asked Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ), Total Sport and Athletics New Zealand for their view on a convicted drug cheat competing in the Tauranga Marathon. The three organizations ducked for cover.

DFSNZ chief executive Nick Paterson said, “It’s all organized sport carried out under the guise of the national sporting organization. What it doesn’t include is social events. I want to see increased leadership on the part of promoters.”

Total Sport event organizer, Jules Harvey, said, “I need to get a bit more information about that.”

Athletics New Zealand chief executive, Hamish Grey, confirmed that the event wasn’t sanctioned by his organization, which he said left him in an unfortunate spot.

“If they’re not under the auspices of the bodies that he was banned from, then there’s nothing we can do, as much as we might like to. In the end, it’s over to each of the promoters, but we would welcome that dialogue.” he said.

Their responses are pathetic. All three organizations have a duty to protect sport from drug cheats – no matter what the circumstances or risks. All three failed in that duty. The only person feeling delighted with himself today is the cheat, Keenan.

Authorities have a habit of being tough when it’s easy and running for cover when the going gets tough. It really annoys me when I compare the way DFSNZ has treated clean athletes compared to their gutless reaction to Keenan.

For example consider their response to the Trent Bray positive test. Trent proved that his sample had baked in the summer sun in an Australian laboratory over the Christmas holiday. Any chemical reaction was possible under those conditions. But did DFSNZ take that into account. Of course they didn’t. Instead of throwing the samples away and starting over again DFSNZ used their wealth to drag Trent through a legal nightmare. Eventually, but only after spending a fortune on legal fees, Trent was cleared of all wrong doing.

Take for example the treatment of New Zealand’s best sprinter, Toni Jeffs. Toni was a big strong girl. She loved working out in the gym and it showed. Because she was female, because she was a sprinter and because she had muscles, DFSNZ wouldn’t leave her alone. She was tested eight times in one year. I don’t feel there is any need for that frequency. When does proper surveillance become harassment? Actually the number of tests would have been nine. I got Toni to refuse to attend one of the tests. She had been contacted and ordered to attend a motel in central Wellington. The motel was next to the Salvation Army night shelter. It was not a nice part of town. The motel was best known for renting rooms by the hour. For DFSNZ to use it for a partial medical testing procedure on young New Zealand women was disgusting. Toni’s next test was programmed in the offices of a well-known Wellington doctor; a much better choice.

And finally consider the example of Jane Copland who was drug tested after winning her first medal at the NZ Open Championships. I asked to be sent copies of the paperwork transferring her samples from Dunedin to Australia. I noticed that the sample number sent from Dunedin was different from the sample number received by the laboratory in Sydney. Of course I asked DFSNZ, why? I was told the original paper work was lost between Dunedin and Auckland. Fresh forms were prepared in Auckland for the trip to Sydney. I was told not to worry. The samples were the same. Everything was going to be fine. The right thing to do was to throw the samples away and start again. But, like the Trent Bray case, DFSNZ pushed on; blind to honesty, deaf to justice. Jane’s samples tested negative to any drugs; crisis avoided.

You can probably appreciate why, with that history of the poor treatment of honest athletes, I feel aggrieved at the gutless behavior of Total Sport, DFSNS and Athletics New Zealand in the Keenan case. The rules and fairness didn’t seem to worry them when Trent’s samples baked in the sun, or when they were selecting a location to test Toni or when Jane’s paper work went missing. No problems of justice on those occasions.

But when it’s a dishonest policeman, when kicking a rogue drug cheat out of a race is difficult, suddenly it becomes tough. The rule book is brought out not to protect sport or to prosecute Keenan but to provide something for DFSNZ, Athletics New Zealand and Total Sport to hide behind. You can often tell the calibre of those you deal with, not by what they do on good days but by how they react to adversity. Their response to Keenan’s entry into the marathon was gutless and inexcusable. Allowing him to run put back the cause of drug free sport. Those involved, including Keenan, should be ashamed. Keenan is a policeman. He should know that by running in the marathon he was dodging justice. He was using the rules as callously as some mob boss. In my opinion his behavior reflects badly on him and on the organization that employs him.

The three bodies responsible for protecting the rest of us should not copy Keenan’s disregard for justice.

Welfare, Roulette, Leadership?

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

 SNZ’s new management plan

Saturday’s NZ Herald published a fascinating article, written by Joel Kulasingham. He reported on an interview with the New Zealand Athletes Federation CEO, Roger Mortimer. The article discussed the difficulties experienced by many athletes transitioning from their sport to “normal” life. The desperate situation of athletes such as Michael Phelps, John Kirwan, Liam Malone and Kevin Locke were discussed. Mortimer concluded by pointing to a lack of leadership in New Zealand sport that multiplied the damage caused by an athlete’s transition out of athletics.

Two paragraphs in the NZ Herald report strike at the heart of the problem and expose the bankruptcy of Miskimmin’s management of his portfolio.

“Their wellbeing is completely haphazard and it’s completely dependent on whether they basically come across someone in their life that will keep them grounded. If that doesn’t happen, then the consequences are drastic.”

The country’s narrow view of sports and its function, as well as its emphasis on medals contributes to the problem, Mortimer says.

“We have a government funded agency in New Zealand that has stated the rule about medals. And we’ve now had the greatest Olympic winner of all time coming out saying that the courage to face life itself far outstrips winning an Olympic gold medal any day of the week.

I agree with Mortimer’s fears. In fact I was sufficiently concerned that, in my most recent book, “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers” the final two chapters discuss the difficulties of retirement. Here is how the book introduces the subject.

Through this book I have discussed the chronic swimming problem of early teenage drop-out. I have looked at the factors likely to cause drop-out and identified ways of detecting early warnings that drop-out might be about to happen. And finally I have suggested remedial measures that can be taken to avoid the factors that cause young swimmers to leave the sport.

However eventually everyone does retire. Some continue on as master’s swimmers and others hang up their suits and never come under starter’s orders again. At whatever stage a swimmer decides to retire, it is a big event. Any activity that has occupied up to five hours a day, six or seven days a week, for ten years or more, is going to end up leaving a void to be filled. Swimming will have brought marvellous highs, intense satisfaction and amazing fun. Swimming will have also been responsible for some bitter lows, some sadness and heart-break. No activity that has gone on for so long and been so intrusive in the participant’s life can be left with only a shrug and a, “Who cares?” Most swimmers need a coping mechanism in place to ease them through the transition into “civilian” life.

The book then has two chapters written by Jane Copland that discuss various coping mechanisms for transferring into “civilian” life. Jane uses a series of interviews with ex Division One USA University swimmers as the basis of her contribution to the book. It is well worth a read, especially for swimmers nearing the end of their competitive swimming careers.

I was prompted to include the retirement chapters in the book because of something that happened on this blog. Swimwatch has published 1082 stories. By far and away the two most popular stories were both written by Jane. One was titled “How not to be a fat ex swimmer” and the other, “Every swimmers most feared decision knowing when to quit”.

Every day, for six or seven years, three or four people from all around the world appear on the Swimwatch analytics report as having read those two stories. Clearly it is a topic of interest and concern.

Here are the links to those stories.

http://www.swimwatch.net/2007/09/how-not-to-be-the-fat-ex-swimmer.html

http://www.swimwatch.net/2007/12/every-swimmers-most-feared-decision-knowing-when-to-quit.html

Of special interest was the conclusion of the Mortimer interview. Here is where he paces the blame for the damage that can result from participation in competitive sport.

“In my opinion, it all comes down to leadership. I think sport in New Zealand has a serious leadership void, and the unfortunate consequence is for many people involved in the system is that they have to pick up the pieces in this area.”

“This is not rocket science. This is about leadership, this is about our vision on how we want to treat people. And these are all issues that have been communicated by a certain amount of people for a very very long time, and they’ve all gone completely ignored.”

“It all comes down to leadership.” “New Zealand has a serious leadership void.” Who could possibly put the problem better? Miskimmin, Cotterill, Johns and Francis – a leadership void – brilliant. Mortimer is right this problem lies squarely at the door of those in charge. Johns admitted as much in the Wellington information meeting. He said swimming needs money to survive. The best place to get money is from Miskimmin. The only way to get money out of Miskimmin is to win medals.

That philosophy guarantees the disgustingly poor treatment of athletes and coaches. Why? Because the wages of Johns and Francis are directly linked to medals. Their income improves if they exploit swimmers and their coaches. They benefit the most from swimmers performing well. It is in their interest to exploit and use no matter what the cost. And they do it repeatedly without shame or sentiment.

If you need proof, just consider the eighteen years spent dragging children away from their homes to swim for the Swimming New Zealand failed swim squad. What was that if it was not a callous disregard for athlete’s welfare? Think about their decision to withhold the report into the accusations made against my coaching. What was that if it was not cruel contempt for justice and members rights?

Time and time again Johns, Cotterill and Francis make decisions based on what’s in it for the organisation. They use swimmers as pawns in a game of financial self-interest. The NZ Herald article highlights that their egotistic management often has serious personal consequences to the athletes. Consequences, that only become obvious when the swimmers retire. By that time the swimmer’s sacrifice has been forgotten. Johns, Francis and Cotterill have moved on to their next generation of SNZ victims.

International Sport

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Normally Swimwatch avoids getting involved in international sport. There is enough to talk about in New Zealand swimming. However two events occurred this week that do merit attention.

First the world doping agency has approved the reinstatement of the Russian Federation into world sport. That is bad news indeed. The recent expulsion of Russia was long overdue and needed to continue if that country was going to change. When Alison was running at her best, back in the 1970s, competing against the female runners from Russia was so blatantly unfair. In 1979 Alison ran a 1000 meter race in Berlin that ranked her 4th in the world. Two of the runners ahead of her were Russians and were banned in later years for using steroids. I have no doubt that they were using steroids in 1979 as well. They just had not been caught. There is a big difference in meet invitations, sponsorship opportunities, income and recognition between being 4th in the world and 2nd.

That experience was personal, upfront and real. It certainly brought home to me the hurt caused not only by cheating Federations but by countries that let the cheats get away with cheating.

A few years later, in 1991, I was the coach of Toni Jeffs when she swam in the World Short Course Finals in Majorca, Spain. The event was the forerunner of what was to become the World Short Course Championships. The New Zealand team was Toni, Danyon Loader and Phillippa Langrell. I believe, to this day, it is the first New Zealand team to travel to a world class event and have every team member win a medal. Toni won a bronze in the 50 freestyle. Ahead of her were two swimmers from east European communist countries. Both later had drug test problems. Once again there is a huge difference between being 1st and 3rd in the world.

And so for a second time I experienced the hurt of having an athlete beaten by cheats. Sadly, of course, I am not alone. Many coaches and athletes can tell similar stories. It is not fair. It is unjust and it is still happening.

I am proud that New Zealand was one of a minority of countries that stood up for clean athletes and voted for the ban on Russia to continue. Sport needs the protection offered by the ban. For 50 years the Russian Federation has shown itself to be a dishonest cheat. When the country is led by a politician who thinks nothing of state sponsored international murder it is not hard to imagine that the morality of international state sponsored doping presents him with very few problems. Concern about his country’s swimmers cheating is not going to keep Putin awake at night. Winning is all that ex-KGB spy worries about. So thank you New Zealand for taking a stand for the good guys. Now all we need to do is find a way of getting Russia kicked out of world sport again.

And second, on the international scene, I see today that the International Swimming League (ISL) and American marketing company the Wasserman Media Group presented, to an American Swim Coaches conference, their concept of a pro swimming league with pro teams competing frequently in competitions globally. ISL presented near and long-term goals seeking feedback from the American swimming coaching community.

Supporting that is something Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) should be doing. The World Cup circuit is looking old and tired. It is in need of replacement. The old days of FINA spending only 5% of its income on paying athletes is no longer acceptable. The concept of a pro swimming league touring the world, paying athletes at least 50% of their income, should be an ideal replacement. SNZ should support the concept. Just imagine the good it would do for New Zealand swimming to have three or four of New Zealand’s best swimmers touring the world in a professional league. Excitement in the sport and participation would grow. The country’s best athletes would strive harder to reach a level where they could earn a good living from their sport. The idea is nothing but positive.

But will we hear anything from Antares Place? I doubt it. You see a world league does nothing to improve the income or power of Johns and Francis. In fact a world league would cause them to lose power. They would never vote for that no matter what good it did for the sport. No, in Antares Place a world league is not nearly as important as the Francis Folly. Just give Francis and Johns a list of fictitious numbers invented by a university academic  mathematician and leave them to shipwreck the sport on the rocks of the Francis Folly. Don’t worry them with the dream of Perry or Hunter or Clareburt or Fa’amausili or Galyer traveling the world, possibly becoming rich because they are good at swimming. That’s not part of the Johns and Francis plan at all. But it should be.

And so we have two international news items this week that could have a profound effect on swimming in New Zealand; one bad item of drug news where New Zealand stood proud and did the right thing and one item of good news where SNZ are, as usual, nowhere to be seen.

You Have To Be Joking

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

POST SCRIPT

It appears there may be more to the SNZ transfer request story, reported below, than I thought. Ailing Cui is indeed a swim teacher at the West Wave Pool. Recently the Pool Manager, Alex Calwell, embarked on a crusade to grow his empire. In particular he decided the Auckland City Council should get involved in coaching competitive swimmers. Previously Auckland City had restricted its swimming tuition role to teaching learn-to-swim. Quite rightly the Council believed that coaching competitive sport was not one of their duties.

It seems however that Alex Calwell may be a law unto himself. Recently Ailing Cui was appointed to coach the West Wave venture into competitive swimming. Nothing should be said to diminish the seriousness of that decision. Where will it stop? Will private clubs everywhere be taken over by Council Calwell clones?

However Ailing Cui faced a problem. She couldn’t coach swimmers at a competition unless she had a coaching membership pass from Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). To get a SNZ membership she needed to be a member of a club; hence the application to join West Auckland Aquatics. What we don’t know is whether the transfer request is simply a mistake by someone unaware of West Auckland Aquatics’ demise or does it signal a move by Calwell and his mates to resurrect the old club under Auckland City Council control? If it is the latter I would be asking the Registrar of Incorporated Societies to look into any liabilities left behind by the club. They should be transferred to Auckland City. In addition, if the club is renewed, I am still a Board member. I never resigned. I would require my position to be recognised by the resurrected club.

 I know there are many members of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) who support the current management. I imagine that supporters also feel the criticisms made in Swimwatch are unfounded. Even when we provide example after example of incompetence Steve Johns and his mates prefer to blame the messenger rather than message.

Perhaps the critics could explain events that occurred yesterday. Some readers may remember that there once was a swimming club based in the West Wave Pool in Henderson. It was called West Auckland Aquatics. The club had been coached successfully by Ross Anderson and Donna Bouzaid. Most recently I was the Head Coach.

Sadly three years ago conflict broke out in the club. You can read all about the events that tore West Auckland Aquatics apart on Swimwatch. Here is the link – http://www.swimwatch.net/?s=West+Auckland+Aquatics

SNZ got involved in the conflict. Chairman Cotterill attended four meetings in an effort to bring peace to the west. In my view he did a good job. He maybe got involved a little too late but once he was there Cotterill seemed determined to find a solution to the club’s problems. He made a proposal that I thought should have been accepted. However the West Auckland Aquatics’ Chairman was not one for compromise. Ridiculously, she rejected the Cotterill peace offer. Eventually SNZ had no option but to expel the club from SNZ membership. And that is what happened.

Christian Renford was the CEO of SNZ at the time. On the 14 December 2015 he advised WAQ members that the club’s membership was permanently terminated. Renford told me it was the first time in SNZ’s 125 year history that a club had been expelled from the organization.

After attending four meetings on the subject; after expelling a member club for the first time in swimming history you would think SNZ and especially its Chairman, Bruce Cotterill, would remember the name West Auckland Aquatics. But apparently not.

You see yesterday SNZ sent me the following email.

transfers@swimming.org.nzTo:info@swimmingnz.org.nz,nzdaw@yahoo.co.nz,info@swimmingnz.org.nz,info@akswim.co.nz

‎18‎ ‎Sep at ‎1‎:‎59‎ ‎PM

A transfer has been requested for Miss Ailing Cui from Course Contact to West Auckland Aquatics.

Please login to approve this transfer.

As you can see there are several things wrong with the email. First they sent it to my personal email address. I stopped working for West Auckland Aquatics before the club was terminated. Clearly SNZ email contacts have not been upgraded for three years. Second the swimmer is asking to transfer to a club that hasn’t existed for three years. The SNZ list of member clubs clearly needs updating. And third I have no idea where the club Course Contacts is based. I doubt that a club of that name even exists.

Several years ago SNZ demanded the power to approve all inter-club transfers. They said it was to make sure the rules were being followed. They wanted to avoid swimmers being poached – that was ironic when you consider, for 20 years, the biggest poacher of swimmers has been SNZ. For years the Federation openly advertised their poaching intentions on the SNZ website. I have always been suspicious that their real motive in approving transfers was to eventually make money out of the transfer market. I suspect that is still to come.

However, even SNZ must admit that their oversight role looks a touch ridiculous when they let emails through to a non-existent coach from a non-existent club to another non-existent club. Does the swimmer even exist? I suspect not. Miss Ailing Cui is a learn to swim teacher at the West Wave Pool and the mother of Elizabeth Cui, a west Auckland diver, currently studying at Louisiana State University in the United States. SNZ oversight? I doubt they have even read the transfer request. Too hard at work on the Francis Folly perhaps.

I have not approved the transfer. I would be grateful if SNZ could tell Miss Ailing Cui that the Waterhole Club and the Diving Waitakere Club are both reasonably close. They are better options than RIP West Auckland Aquatics.

Miskimmin’s Empire Crumbles

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

A recent Swimwatch post discussed the blind loyalty of Trump fans. We compared them to the equally puzzling loyalty of some Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) supporters, members who see no error in the Federation’s bizarre behavior. Their irrational devotion however is wearing thin, especially as the wheels are beginning to fall off other sports that have succumbed to the lure of Miskimmin’s money.

Swimming, cycling, netball and soccer are a mess. But now we have the jewel in Miskimmin’s crown crumbling before our eyes. This weekend rowing raced in the 2018 World Championships. They won nothing. Winning and losing is what sport is about. Even the All Blacks lost a game to South Africa this weekend. But with the All Blacks there was the impression that the loss was a temporary setback, a blip on a successful path towards the World Cup. There were lessons to be learned, of course, and I’m sure a good coach like Hansen is well aware of what needs to be done to return his team to winning ways.

But a blip in a successful path is not the impression left by rowing’s World Championship disaster. This was more like the beginning of a slide into oblivion. Miskimmin’s centralised dream has become a nightmare. So what happened in Bulgaria? Here is how the NZ Herald reported the World Championship results.

Rowing: Time to panic after NZ Rowing’s worst world championship haul in 15 years?

New Zealand have become used to a steady stream of success at world rowing championships.

So does the national body write off a disappointing collective return from this year’s event, which finished in Plovdiv, Bulgaria last night, as a one-off blip or something more concerning?

This is the halfway point in the four-year Olympic cycle leading to Tokyo. New Zealand bagged three medals, two silvers and a bronze, out of the 13 Olympic class events they entered. New Zealand didn’t enter the 14th Olympic category, the women’s quad.

It is the weakest return since 2003. By comparison, last year New Zealand won seven medals at the worlds, finishing second top nation. This time they finished 18th.

Manson was among the disappointments in Bulgaria, finishing fifth in his final, despite having won both World Cup leadup regattas and appearing a formidable presence. Both eights crews had a poor return. Neither made their A finals. There were two fourths, a fifth and a sixth placing from other crews in A finals while the men’s four were third in their C final.

RNZ said an internal review began last April to look into pinnacle event performance at pinnacle events. It added that was tied in with the sport looking ahead “so we can refresh and continually improve to maintain our place as world leading in the high performance environment”.

Why has this happened in rowing? The answer is – for all the same reasons as it has happened in swimming and is about to happen in cycling. It is because the influence of Miskimmin and his money is like a cancer, destroying good cells in the sport and replacing them with malignant Miskimmin look-alikes.

In the case of rowing, two men have held that sport together for the past 15 years. Coach Dick Tonks and high performance boss, Alan Cotter, were the backbone of the sport. Both were old-school, tough, opinionated and very good at their jobs, not at all in the Miskimmin mold. Gradually Miskimmin’s influence won through. Tonks and Cotter were increasingly sidelined. Petty fights broke out about who Tonks could coach and whether Cotter’s work should be the subject of yet another Miskimmin “internal review”. Whenever Miskimmin wants to extend his power he prefaces the move with a review, a review that he controls and manipulates to arrive at the conclusions he wants in the first place.

In rowing it was to get rid of Tonks and Cotter. And, hey presto, just like that they have both left. I am unaware of their replacements but, if swimming is the model, they will be replaced by members of the white shoes and pink socks brigade. Miskimmin prefers to see that city latté sort in positions of power. Just look at Cotterill, Johns and Francis. The problem with white shoes and pink socks is they can’t win a rowing race – or a swimming race for that matter.

And that is why I am pretty confident that the All Blacks’ loss was a blimp and rowing’s losses were the beginning of a slide. You see the All Blacks still have their boss, running the ship. Steve Hansen knows what he’s doing and in his rough ex-freezing worker manner will make sure of the team’s success. Rowing on the other hand has thrown their Steve Hansens overboard and replaced them with university trained novices who I suspect know very little about how to row a boat.

The way the Johns and Francis set talk is a dead give-away. Just look at the last sentence of the NZ Herald report. It says the purpose of the Miskimmin review is, “so we can refresh and continually improve to maintain our place as world leading in the high performance environment”. Can you, in your wildest dreams imagine Steve Hansen or Arthur Lydiard or Duncan Laing saying garbage like that? And the highly educated Arch Jelley never indulged in that sort of meaningless twaddle.

As sure as God made little green apples rowing’s white shoes and pink socks bureaucrats are going to need a lot more than a Miskimmin review for rowing to return to being a world leader in the high performance environment. In one year the sport has plunged from being the second nation in the world to eighteenth. It’s going to take more than a cup of latte to sort that out. That’s a task only Hansen, Jelley, Lydiard, Laing, Tonks, Cotter and their likes could solve. Problem is the six of them combined couldn’t come up with a pair of white shoes and pink socks.