Already Absent

One week ago the FBI issued indictments against seven Russian state officials on charges of illegal computer hacking. The officers, and by implication their government, were accused of hacking the doping records of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and included the theft and publication of many athlete’s private medical and doping histories. Clearly the information was intended to ruin the reputation of non-Russian athletes and was taken in retaliation to WADA’s attempts to sanction Russian state cheating.

Of equal concern to the behavior of the Russians is the deadly silence from WADA.  This is how the WADA reaction was reported on the Swimvortex Facebook page.

WADA has, conspicuously by its absence, failed to issue a public statement condemning this. This, once again, leads us to believe that WADA’s priorities do not lie with the clean athletes, who you claim yet fail to represent. Mr. President, on behalf of the global athlete community, I ask you how much more damning evidence and distressing facts of Russia’s state-supported attempts to disrupt the global anti-doping effort do we have to witness before WADA, and indeed the IOC too, actually stand up and represent us – the majority?

It is a very valid question. Clean athletes should not be forced to compete with Russian cheats. Russian cheats should not be nurtured and protected by the Russian state. Just because the President of Russia spends endless money on IOC and WADA junkets does not excuse his disgusting behavior. WADA has failed in its core responsibility to protect sport from the cancer of drug use.

But the face of WADA’s neglect lies closer to home than the WADA head office in Montreal, Canada. You see the new President of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), Dave Gerrard, is also the Chairman of the WADA TUC Committee. Gerrard’s principal responsibility is to set the rules for athletes who find it necessary to take drugs for legitimate therapeutic reasons. Russian cheating and crimes are by no means therapeutic. However Gerrard is a senior member of the world’s leading drug agency and has a responsibility to ensure WADA acts properly.

Gerrard’s duty is further enhanced by his responsibilities to New Zealand swimming. I see he was interviewed last week on Radio Sport. He was full of ideas about the need for better coaching, improved learn-to-swim and the importance of competition in Australia. He was however remarkably silent on a subject that is already his responsibility. Not one word about Russian cheats or what he was going to do to sanction the representatives of the Russian state. I find it very difficult to have any respect for someone who happily criticises honest New Zealand coaches and stays silent about cheating Russians – especially when the job that rewards him handsomely, both as a WADA Chairman and the SNZ President, requires him to deal with the cheats. In my opinion Gerrard should clean up his own act before he starts poking sticks at hard working New Zealand coaches.

And it is not as though Russian cheats don’t affect the sport in New Zealand. Yes, of course I know that New Zealand swimming is struggling to keep up with world standards. Swimmers in New Zealand have enough problems with the sport’s rubbish New Zealand administration. It is unacceptable for their task to be made even more difficult by state sponsored cheating.

Dave Gerrard could improve the average New Zealand SC Champion’s world ranking by an average of eleven places just by doing his job. The table below shows the winner’s time for every event at last week’s New Zealand Short Course Championships. The next column shows the 2017/18 world ranking of that time. The fourth column shows the number of Russian cheats with times faster than the New Zealand winner. The final column then shows where the New Zealand Champion would rank if Dave Gerrard was actually working in the best interests of the sport in his home country.

Men 50 Free 22.31 185 23 162
Men 100 Free 48.64 141 18 123
Men 200 Free 1:45.87 74 11 63
Men 400 Free 3:49.52 187 13 174
Men 800 Free 8:04.93 79 2 77
Men 1500 Free 15:20.19 164 11 153
Men 50 Back 24.19 62 7 55
Men 100 Back 52.06 57 7 50
Men 200 Back 1:53.03 27 3 24
Men 50 Breast 27.81 132 24 108
Men 100 Breast 1:00.98 210 37 173
Men 200 Br 2:09.73 113 11 102
Men 50 Fly 23.96 103 21 82
Men 100 Fly 52.31 112 13 99
Men 200 Fly 1:55.84 75 7 68
Men 100 IM 53.06 28 4 24
Men 200 IM 1:54.51 16 2 14
Men 400 IM 4:14.70 95 8 87
Women 50 Fr 25.30 121 11 110
Women 100 Fr 54.13 53 6 47
Women 200 Fr 1:57.40 68 9 59
Women 400 Fr 4:06.81 38 4 34
Women 800 Fr 8:27.85 37 3 34
Women 1500 Fr 16:25.17 12 1 11
Women 50 Bk 27.49 85 8 77
Women 100 Bk 58.90 99 7 92
Women 200 Bk 2:07.48 37 8 29
Women 50 Br 31.83 113 19 94
Women 100 Br 1:07.91 103 11 92
Women 200 Br 2:25.17 63 38 25
Women 50 Fl 26.97 112 10 102
Women 100 Fl 1:00.07 162 17 145
Women 200 Fl 2:13.01 149 8 141
Women 100 IM 1:00.61 40 4 36
Women 200 IM 2:13.40 98 4 94
Women 400 IM 4:44.80 108 7 101
Average   93 11 82

As you can see the action of banning Russian swimmers would not only be the right thing to do but would improve the average world ranking of the New Zealand champion by 11 places from 93 in the world to 82. I accept this is still a poor result, but at least it would be fair. For a few events (200 men’s back, men’s 100 and 200 IM, women’s 1500, women’s 200 back, women’s 200 breast and women’s 100 IM) the improvement is very significant.

And so before Gerrard cracks on about New Zealand coaching it would serve him well to make sure he has done all he can to improve the world performance of New Zealand swimmers. Right now that is far from the case. In my opinion his WADA performance is hurting New Zealand swimmers badly. Doing nothing while cheats prosper is as bad as cheating yourself. Before Gerrard sounds off about New Zealand swimmers or their coaches he needs to accept the biblical order, “Physician heal thyself.”

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