Archive for October, 2018

Whitewash

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Miskimmin’s sporting empire is currently flooded in investigations and reports. There is nothing too unusual about that. Ordering an investigation is Miskimmin’s preferred method of creating instability through which he can grow and consolidate his personal power. One by one the reports are being prepared and made public. This week Michael Heron QC submitted his Heron Report into Cycling New Zealand (CNZ).

This report is the usual mix of the good, the bad and the ugly that we have come to expect from investigations into New Zealand sport. We can often learn more from the reaction to the report than what is in the report itself. Heron has focused his attention on the behaviour of ex-CNZ coach, Anthony Peden. The report concludes that Peden was too tough, drank too much and was seen kissing a female cyclist goodnight after a night out in Bordeaux, France. Peden is long gone from CNZ. He resigned months ago and was not around to defend himself for this report. Today he is coaching the Chinese national team. I find it hard to understand how a Queens Council can support such positive charges against Peden without hearing from the accused. The report even says that, “there was a lack of accountability and leadership throughout the CNZ operation and a reluctance to raise issues, which led to a lack of reliable evidence.”

If the evidence is so unreliable why are we expected to believe that the conclusions, reached on the basis of unreliable evidence, will be sound? Heron’s report reflects badly on his judgement and on my old high school, Wellington College, and university, Victoria University. I can only assume his right wing politics have clouded the teachings of his early education. On this evidence Heron appears to have been watching too much American television. We can do without “Kavanagh” decision-making in New Zealand.

I am not surprised that Peden’s lawyer’s reaction to the Report’s findings was, “unsurprising given that the evidence obtained and relied on is predominantly second and third hand, and includes conjecture, perception, conjecture-on-conjecture, anecdote, hearsay, gossip and rumour” Hear hear to that.

The report becomes more balanced when it discusses the reaction of CNZ to the accusations made against Peden. The Report points to “an absence of accountability” and “sub-optimal leadership” as reasons for failings within the sport. High Performance Sport New Zealand does not escape criticism for their lack of action, despite their knowledge of the issues. Now all that has a ring of truth. If events at Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) are any example, an absence of leadership, sub-optimal leadership and a lack of action are true to form.

What else would explain the decision to deny an accused the right to see the result of a three day trial? What else would justify a decision to charge New Zealand’s best swimmers $5,300 to attend a World Championship while SNZ staff have their costs fully paid? What else would vindicate an annual competition program devoid of logic or sense? Who else would see no fault in manipulating rules and selection criteria? SNZ that’s who; corrupt beyond belief.

As we know the SNZ Board and senior management ignore bad behaviour. They sit in their closeted offices as though none of this bad conduct matters. Swimmers and coaches; no one except them matters. Their pay, their status, their cozy little number is all that needs protection. So how did the gods at CNZ respond? Exactly as you would expect SNZ to react is the answer.

Here is how the Stuff website reported the reaction of the CNZ Chairman, Tony Mitchell.

CNZ chairman Tony Mitchell said there would be no changes at the top of the organisation, despite Heron’s findings that Matheson “appeared to take a one-dimensional approach to issues” and didn’t fully investigate potentially serious incidents.

“Andrew Matheson is our CEO and the board has confidence in Andrew,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the organization “acknowledge[s] the areas we did not get right and that more should have been done. Cycling New Zealand apologizes to all those adversely impacted during this time.”

“We have already begun solid dialogue with our athletes whose views are fundamental in establishing an open and honest high performance environment where our riders and staff can relate with each other directly and with respect to ensure such circumstances do not arise in the future.”

Blah, blah, blah – just the sort of rubbish we have been trained to expect from the SNZ Chairman, Bruce Cotterill.

The reports final conclusion is that High Performance Sport NZ (HPSNZ) could have done more to ensure issues were being adequately dealt with by CNZ. Heron said “HPSNZ as a whole knew enough of the circumstances before May 2018 to have done more to assist.”

That conclusion applies equally to SNZ. No one can tell me that HPSNZ don’t know about the secret report into my hearing. HPSNZ know that SNZ lie and cheat their way through life. Why else would they cut the state’s funding of the sport every year? But do HPSNZ do anything about putting the sport back on the straight and narrow? Do they demand SNZ provide me with a copy of my Report? Do they ask for the resignation of Cotterill, Johns and Francis? No of course they don’t. HPSNZ is as bureaucratic and useless as those they rule. For as long as that neglect is the rule, sports in New Zealand that are beholden to Sport New Zealand for their existence will wither and die. A lack of moral leadership in sports, like SNZ, who rely on Sport New Zealand for the majority of their income will continue to lurch from one crisis to another; will continue their steady and quantifiable decline.

Are They Thick Or What?

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

Last week a Swimwatch post highlighted the $5,300 fee Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is charging each of the eighteen swimmers selected to attend the 2018 World Short Course Championships in China. Several features made the fee particularly heinous.

  1. It is an appalling way for SNZ to show its support for a national team. The stain of SNZ affects us all.
  2. Compared to swimmers from other national teams New Zealand swimmers will be arriving as second class citizens. Imagine the shame of paying for the cap you wear to represent the country.
  3. While eighteen swimmers are each paying a huge fee of $5,300, six officials are having the full cost of their trip paid by SNZ. And we thought slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833.
  4. I can only hope that the eighteen swimmers on that airplane to China recognise they have been ripped off by the six officials sitting with them who are being fully funded by a disgusting decision of the SNZ Board. I hope the swimmers give the sport’s representatives, especially Gary Francis, the respect they deserve – none.
  5. At least one swimmer is having to resort to public fundraising in order to pay the SNZ fee. The others will fundraise or will rely on family and friends to finance the cost of representing our nation. For those who can help Emma Godwin, here is her “Give-a-Little” page. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/swimming-world-short-course-championships-trip
  6. When compared with the extravagant wages paid to Johns and Francis and other inflated costs of SNZ’s administration, the World Championship travel fee demonstrates the most appalling set of values and use of public money.
  7. SNZ has become an object of derision around the world.

It is the last of these points I want to highlight in this post – SNZ has become an object of derision around the world.

Without question charging this fee has brought SNZ into disrepute. That is not the swimmers’ fault. It is certainly not the fault of Swimwatch for reporting the fee. This one is all down to SNZ. It is the values and priorities of their Board and senior management that have led the sport to this stunning low. They frittered away the organisation’s financial reserves. They wasted money on ineffective executives and their costly perks. They employed a succession of expensive and unsuccessful foreign coaches. For twenty years they pursued a failed centralised training policy. They allowed a once proud and stand-alone sport to become a state welfare beneficiary. Their record is pathetic failure heaped upon pathetic failure.

The financial plight of eighteen good New Zealand swimmers has brought SNZ’s chickens home to roost. If the Swimwatch analytics data is to be believed the reaction has been embarrassing, serious and worldwide.

In twenty-four hours the story has been read 501 times. That is about twice the readership of a normal Swimwatch story. Readers have come from 24 countries. The table below shows the top five of those countries.

Country Number of Readers in First 24 Hours Percent of Total
New Zealand 388 77.60%
United States 31 6.20%
Australia 24 4.80%
United Kingdom 11 2.20%
Canada 6 1.20%

Twenty-four countries in twenty-four hours is a pretty broad readership. Clearly the plight of New Zealand’s best swimmers has struck a nerve around the world. Clearly SNZ is receiving the opprobrium it deserves.

The quality of the critics has also been significant. Take Rhi Jeffrey for example. Before I had anything to do with Rhi’s coaching she won an Olympic Gold Medal as part of the USA relay team at the Athens’ Olympic Games. She also won a couple of Gold Medals at the Barcelona World Championships. She was a very classy swimmer; strong and powerful, with a wonderful feel of the water and a deadly approach to competition. Today Rhi is the Head Coach of the Cannonball Club in the USA. It is a lucky club indeed who has someone of her knowledge and ability coaching their team. But her other quality – Rhi is no one’s fool. In fact she’s as sharp as a tack. That’s what makes her interesting and her views worth serious consideration. Here is her reaction on Facebook to the SNZ user pays story.

Rae RaeYesterday at 3:51 AM ·

Guys, the NZ World Championship Swim Team is being told they need to pay $5,300 a piece out of pocket to compete at Worlds. THIS. IS. APPALLING. While their staff members get free rides, the athletes are being forced to resort to GoFundMe pages to help raise funds. DISGUSTING!!! SHAME ON YOU SWIMMING NZ!!!!

SNZ are way braver or more stupid than me. When they do something that elicits this reaction from someone like Rhi they should be very concerned. In this case that appears to be exactly what they have done. Oh, SNZ will hide away down here in the bottom of the world. Things will move on. Johns and Francis will continue to prosper at the expense of the membership. But SNZ need to recognize their actions have brought the sport into disrepute, literally around the world. They have earned the condemnation of the sport’s finest swimmers. To quote Rhi, “Shame on you Swimming NZ.”

Cotterill, Johns & Francis Have Brought Us To This

Friday, October 12th, 2018

 Some things really piss me off. Usually they involve an injustice; the powerful taking advantage of the weak; the strong rewarding themselves at the expense of the public; behaviour that decent societies recognise as corrupt. One such event has occurred this week. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) announced the team to represent New Zealand at the 2018 World Short Course Championships in China. It is a big team of eighteen swimmers. Congratulations to every swimmer. Representing your country does not come easy. You have earned the respect of us all. Here are their names.

Bradlee Ashby (North Shore), George Schroder (Hokitika), Vanessa Ouwehand (St Peter’s), Ruby Matthews (Evolution Aquatics), Hayley McIntosh (Northwave), Paige Flynn (St Peter’s), Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore), Carina Doyle (North Shore), Yeonsu Lee (North Shore), Ciara Smith (Northwave), Daniel Hunter (Howick Pakuranga), Matt Hyde (Matamata), Andrew Jeffcoat (Fairfield), Quinton Hurley (Jasi), Caitlin Deans (Neptune), Gina McCarthy (Hillcrest), Rebecca Moynihan (Raumati), Emma Godwin (Heretaunga Sundevils).

Along with the names of the selected swimmers SNZ announced that every team member would have to pay $5,300 towards the cost of getting to the World Championships. Just imagine that. Swimmers work hard year after year and finally get good enough to represent New Zealand at a World Championships and SNZ asks them to pay. Those swimmers have already paid. They have been paying with money and sweat for years and still Scrooge Cotterill, Scrooge Johns and Scrooge Francis ask for more.

That is no way to treat a national team attending a World Championships. It is desperately wrong in a number of ways.

New Zealand’s eighteen swimmers are about to meet swimmers from many different countries. Almost always they will be rubbing shoulders with swimmers who are rewarded by their countries with paid travel, accommodation, uniforms and possibly a daily allowance. The inevitable and desperate feeling of rejection is no way for a national team to approach a World Championship. “My country wouldn’t even pay for my uniform”, is not a thought any swimmer should have at a World Championships. Does my Federation care? Do Cotterill, Johns and Francis care about me? Not enough to pay a cent towards your trip is the answer. It is understandably hard to feel pride in your national cap when you know that SNZ made money out of selling it to you.

I have been fortunate enough to place swimmers on several national teams including Great Britain, New Zealand, the Virgin Islands, the USA and Saudi Arabia. Big or small, rich or poor New Zealand is the only one I have seen charge swimmers to attend a World Championship.

And finally, in my opinion, it is an obscene level of corruption when SNZ bureaucrats sit around in Antares Place drinking coffee, paying themselves handsome salaries and at the same time demand that swimmers pay to represent the country. I bet Steve Johns never paid to fly to Japan recently for a ceremonial junket. No of course he didn’t pay. After all, he is the great and the powerful Steve Johns. How dare we compare mere swimmers to his arrogant royal highness. The sense of entitlement is stunning. The master and slave relationship is impossible to avoid.

Today the six officials traveling with the team were announced; three coaches, a Manager, a Physiotherapist and – wait for the sound of celestial trumpets – Gary Francis. How much do you want to bet Francis is having the full cost of his trip paid by SNZ? That’s right, eighteen hard working and talented swimmers are required to pay while an Auckland age-group coach gets his junket for free.

It is a corrupt disgrace. Between them Johns and Francis earn the thick end of $300,000 in salaries at SNZ. How they sleep at night knowing that eighteen dedicated swimmers are paying their bloated wages is beyond my understanding. Those guys don’t care about New Zealand’s swimmers. The athletes are pawns in a game of executive privilege and greed.

The full horror of these events became apparent when I noticed the following page on the “Give-a-Little” website.

New Zealand Short Course Championships saw the team for World Short Course Championships selected. My winning time of 2.07.48 for the 200 Backstroke was enough to see me selected to this New Zealand team to compete in Hangzhou China in December. It is a huge stepping stone for me on my way towards the ultimate goal of competing at the 2020 Olympics, and provides a great feeling of progression and recognition for all the hard work and sacrifices over the past four years. Having made my way back to Hawke’s Bay at the beginning of the year, I am super proud to be flying the flag not only for our country, but for the HBPB swimming region and Sundevils club. As swimmers we are not in it for the financial rewards, more our own personal journey towards these goals we set ourselves. However this chance to compete on an International stage comes with a price tag. The team to compete has to front up $5300 for flights, accommodation, uniform, other team costs. It would mean the world to me if some friends, family, supporters and swimming community could chip in a bit of this to make sure my primary focus is on how to swim as fast as I can come December, not just how do I pay my way there! Every little bit would be greatly appreciated, and I will be doing my absolute best to do everyone in my wider circle proud when I stand behind those starting blocks in a few months time.

The team cost of $5300. Flights, uniform, accommodation.

Emma Godwin

I desperately hope Emma Godwin raises the full $5,300 and more. She is a terrific backstroke swimmer with a cultured stroke to die for. I admire her initiative in asking for assistance. But I also believe she should not have to advertise on “Give-a-Little”. Raising travel money is a core duty of SNZ. If Cotterill, Johns and Francis can’t avoid the spectacle of having national representatives asking the public for money, then they should be replaced by others with superior values. Consider this; every week Johns and Francis are paid about $5,700. That’s more than the cost of getting Emma Godwin to the World Championships. Every week those two waste-of-space officials take more money out of the sport than it would cost to get Emma Godwin to the Championships. There is something desperately wrong with their values. Or perhaps they have no values.

The question is: has SNZ become an organisation that cares for Emma Godwin or does it pander to the greed of Johns and Francis? There is little doubt about who benefits the most right now.

In the meantime I recommend you go to Emma Godwin’s “Give-a-Little” page and chip in a few dollars. She deserves it. She needs the help and is not going to get it from the three Scrooges that run SNZ.

Make Her Praises Heard Afar

Friday, October 12th, 2018

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has been in the news today. The New Zealand Government launched a $10million strategy to encourage women to get involved in sport. Through the strategy, the Prime Minister said, she wants to see an increase in the involvement of women in sport at grass roots and elite levels. She also wants to encourage women to have a bigger influence in coaching and administration.

I was delighted to see the Prime Minister leading New Zealand sport forward. It is an initiative that is long overdue. I was especially pleased to see that the Government is looking for progress both on the field and in the areas of coaching and administration. For example today’s announcement included a requirement that every sport have a minimum of 40% female membership on their Boards.

That rule change is important. The presence of more women in Board Rooms will result in decisions that make sports more welcoming to female competitors. Remember it is not all that long ago that an Athletics New Zealand Board Member announced that no woman should be selected for the Olympics if a good man was available. There are still some copies of that Neanderthal around today.

The gender balance of swimming is however better than many sports. In fact female competitors usually outnumber males. The most recent figure I have seen was 58% in favor of women. With the exception of the Olympic Games clinging on to women racing 800 meters compared to 1500 meters for men the swim racing programs for men and women are identical. Why the Olympic movement should persist with the belief that women can’t race as far as men, I have no idea. Lauren Boyle seemed to swim the 1500 okay.

Not that swimming in New Zealand is perfect. The current Board has six members and only two of them are women. That’s 33% compared to the Government’s new requirement that women must total at least 40%. Jacinda is right. That needs to be fixed.

In March this year I did an analysis of the gender mix of all the Regional Boards. The table below shows the result of that study. Some of the numbers may have changed but this is what they were in March.

Region Board Total Female % Female
Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) 6 2 33%
Northland 6 5 83%
Auckland 5 1 20%
Counties Manukau 6 3 50%
Waikato 6 3 50%
Bay of Plenty 6 3 50%
Hawkes Bay Poverty Bay 6 3 50%
Manawatu 7 4 57%
Taranaki 6 3 50%
Wellington 6 1 17%
Nelson Marlborough 6 2 33%
Canterbury 6 4 66%
Otago 6 0 0%
Southland 6 4 66%
Total 84 38 45%

The SNZ Regions combined meet Jacinda’s 40% requirement. However within that pass mark the parent organization (33%) and four regions (Otago 0%, Nelson Marlborough 33%, Wellington 17% and Auckland 20%) fail the new gender balance test. That will need to be fixed before SNZ finds itself losing more of Jacinda’s money.

Women are also well represented in coaching New Zealand swimming. In fact some of New Zealand’s most successful coaches are women. Northwave in Whangarei, Waterhole and United in Auckland, HPK in Counties, Auabladz in New Plymouth and the North Canterbury Club in Rangiora are all coached by superbly talented women. It is a sad reflection on SNZ that in two decades of selecting eight National Coaches no female coach ever made the cut. SNZ always selected a male candidate.

The numbers appear to show that SNZ has a mixed record on gender issues. There is certainly no room for complacency. There are aspects of the sport that need vigilance and reform. I am acutely aware of these issues as a result of coaching women. In fact the majority of my most successful swimmers have been female. I have watched closely the journey of national representatives such as Toni Jeffs, Nichola Chellingworth, Jane Copland, Rhi Jeffrey, Penny Jones and Jane Ip. And it is not easy. The path women must walk to get to the top in swimming is more difficult than men. Women have to put up with daily rubbish that men never see or experience. That must change.

There are many small things that frustrate talented, hard working women. For example some of the women I have coached lifted very heavy weights. Just try doing 3×7 elbow raises with 45kgs or 3×7 chin-ups with 20kg tied to your waist, or 3×7 leg presses with 200kgs. It used to frustrate the life out of Toni, Jane and Rhi when men came up to them and said, “Be careful. That weight is too heavy for a girl.” It happens a lot, day after day and is terribly humiliating.

When I helping Alison with her track training I saw myself as being in the vanguard of liberal-thinking. I said things like, “You can train as hard as John Walker.” She did. She regularly completed her 10-week build-up, averaging 160 km or more each week.

And I was wrong. Discussing my enlightened views with Alan Laidler, lecturer in recreation and leisure studies at Victoria University, I was asked, “Why did you make the comparison? Why was it necessary to compare her performance with some man?” He was right. In setting up champion men as role models, I was as guilty of a serious put-down; as guilty as those who say, “You can’t train as hard as men. Do something less.”

I never make that comparison today. Gender is a non-relevant variable. Each athlete has to be taken as an individual. And so, on a day when the New Zealand Prime Minister has brought this issue to our attention there is cause to be vigilant; there is still much to do.

SwimVortex recently wrote a post on gender issues at the IOC. Their report concluded with this lovely and relevant piece of writing.

“So, women swimmers – and you blokes young and not quite so with your mothers, aunts, grandmas, sisters, girlfriends and wives about you – embrace this day that is yours, embrace the wag, the nag and the spirit of nevertheless she persisted and own the world you have a right to.”

Swimming New Zealand Contempt for Justice

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

I have mentioned before the accusations made against me that resulted in Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) ordering me to attend a three day hearing before a criminal psychotherapist. The allegations were pretty brutal. They were based on lies by two dissatisfied club members. Among other accusations they said I had encouraged female swimmers to get pregnant so they could take training advantage of the early pregnancy increase in blood volume. They also said I had forced female swimmers to attend an Auckland strip club. And they claimed I was a sexist bully.

Christian Renford, the CEO of SNZ assured me that because of the serious nature of the accusations I would be provided with the psychotherapist’s report. Otherwise I would never have agreed to the hearing. I have no complaints about the hearing. It was long. It was tough. But I felt it aimed at getting to the truth of the complaints. Mounting a defense against wild accusations of this nature is never easy. I was fortunate that one of my accusers chose to photograph a friend, topless in the girl’s changing room at the National Swimming Championships, and post the photographs on public social media. SNZ showed little interest in this clear breach of their rules, but the psychotherapist was clearly not impressed. Her photography certainly supported my argument that the accusations did not originate from a reliable or trustworthy source.

Sometime later, I am not sure when, the psychotherapist prepared a report and sent it to SNZ. I wrote to SNZ asking to be sent my copy, as promised by the CEO. SNZ wrote back declining my request. I asked the Privacy Commissioner to investigate and that is where we are at today. I do know that SNZ have asked their lawyer to deal with the Privacy Commissioner. I assume that means they know they are skating on very thin ice. And that is certainly true.

I intend to push this as far as I can in order to receive the psychotherapist’s report. It is beyond belief that anyone should be the subject of accusations of this nature, should have to sit through a three day hearing and be denied access to the result. The contempt shown by the SNZ Board and staff for justice, for what is right and decent, is beyond belief. Their behaviour is below contempt. Nothing can justify the disgusting decision taken by a clearly corrupt Board and senior staff. An organisation that is 60% funded by the state must obey the law. We all must obey the law. SNZ has not done this.

I am no lawyer. I have no legal training at all. But it does not take a Queens Council to know that denying an accused person their right to hear the result of their trial is illegal and a violation of a basic human right.

In fact it is a violation of a law that dates back over 800 years to 1215 and the signing of the Magna Carta. Clause 29 of the 1297 version of the Magna Carta guarantees the right to a free and fair trial.

No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will we not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers. We will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right

So, according to the Magna Carta, I was entitled to a fair trial. Did this happen? Through the investigation and hearing I think it did. But what does twenty-first century law say about SNZ’s decision to deny me access to the final judgement? As it turns out my right to see the psychotherapist’s report has quite a bit of legal support. Let’s look at four of the issues involved.

Equality of Arms

The right to equality of arms forms an intrinsic part of the right to a fair hearing and means that there must at all times be a fair balance between the prosecution and the defence. At no stage of the proceedings must any party be placed at a disadvantage vis-à-vis his opponent. Quite obviously when SNZ have access to the final judgement and I do not, the principle of “equality of arms” has been violated. I have been placed at a disadvantage to the Board and staff of SNZ. The law does not allow that.

Publication of Judgements

As a minimum, every person charged has the right to the judgement being made public. Publicity of judgements is required “to ensure scrutiny of the judiciary by the public with a view to safeguarding the right to a fair trial”. Not only are SNZ violating this law, it is highly likely they are hiding the judgement because there is something in it they do not want the membership to see. SNZ stand guilty of the very reason the publicity law was designed to prevent. SNZ are as guilty as sin and we have a right to read what it is.

Reasons for Decisions

Hearings must, at all times, give reasons for their decisions. The accused person is entitled to receive a reasoned judgement within a reasonable time; such judgement is essential for the purpose of lodging appeals. Again I have clearly been denied this right. Just consider what would have happened if I had been punished as a result of this hearing. I would have had no basis for appeal; no justice. But would the SNZ Board or management care? Not if this decision is anything to go by.

Transcripts of the Trial

The law goes further than requiring the accused to receive the final judgement. By law an accused must be provided with transcripts of the hearing. Although I am not asking for that in this case, it does go to show the extent of SNZ duplicity in hiding the judgement of the hearing.

These rights form a part of what it means to provide a fair hearing in our society and in our sport. They constitute the foundation on which a society and a sport, respectful of human rights in general, including the rule of law, is built. But what do the SNZ Board or management care about that? If this case is anything to go by, not a lot is the answer. I think it is worth the fight to be sent the report. Today it is my fight. Tomorrow it might be yours.