Linked From Birth

I currently have two outstanding issues with Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Superficially they would seem to be totally unrelated. After all, one is about Eyad’s application to join the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) refugee program. The other is about my effort to secure the Report into complaints made about my coaching. You might think they are as different as chalk and cheese. But make no mistake, a different food analogy is more accurate. The two issues are as linked as newly stuffed sausages.

The first sausage was my case to get SNZ to send me the Report into my coaching. That began three years ago when SNZ received five complaints about my coaching. It was all around the time when West Auckland Aquatics were going through their Board problems and I was battling the club President, Susan Turner. One of Turner’s supporters Nikki Johns made the complaints. SNZ decided to initiate an investigation and appointed clinical psychoanalyst Michael Marris to head the enquiry.

I was first told about the complaints and the decision to have an investigation by SNZ CEO Christian Renford. He asked if I would participate. I agreed on the condition that I would be given a copy of the final Marris Report. Renford promised that this would be the case – I would be given the report.

I’ve waited three years since my three day trial and still have not received a copy of the Marris Report. I’ve asked SNZ for the Report and been told no. I’ve asked the Privacy Commission to intervene on my behalf. And still SNZ refused. SNZ’s behaviour was considered so egregious that the Commission recommended SNZ take a course in privacy training. The end result is we will head off to the Human Rights Tribunal or the Sports Tribunal to get this thing sorted out. We should never have ended up in Court but that’s what’s going to happen. Well done SNZ.

And so for three years it has been a pretty rocky road. It has certainly soured my relationship with SNZ. In my opinion their effort to hide the Report smacks of the evidence hiding practiced by a 1930’s Chicago Mafia gang.

Which brings me to the second case – Eyad’s application to join the IOC refugee program. Eyad’s case began recently, in December 2018. We completed an application for Eyad to join the IOC refugee team. The application process involved the NZ Olympic Committee (NZOC) approving the application and sending it off to the IOC for a decision. We know the NZOC consulted at length with SNZ about the content of Eyad’s application. In the end the NZOC refused to send on the application. They said Eyad was not fast enough. But the hugely frustrating thing was no one would tell us what was fast enough. Even though Eyad is arguably the fastest refugee in the world no one would explain why he was considered too slow. They said he wasn’t fast enough to represent NZ. So what – Eyad wasn’t applying to swim for NZ.

I have never blamed the NZOC for their decision to refuse to pass on Eyad’s IOC refugee application. I believe the NZOC were led astray by SNZ. In my opinion SNZ hated Eyad’s coach and biased their opinion to the NZOC in order to have Eyad’s application stopped. However discrimination is discrimination no matter what its cause. If I’m right and Eyad has been discriminated against as a result of advice delivered by SNZ, a planned Court case before the Human Rights Tribunal or the Sports Tribunal will establish the truth.

However it might (hopefully) not come to that. The NZOC have recently demonstrated a more constructive approach and suggested a meeting with Eyad and SNZ in two or three weeks. I am hopeful that might avoid a Tribunal discrimination case and see Eyad’s application on its way to the IOC in Switzerland.

So now you know why I believe these two cases are linked. I believe SNZ have discriminated against Eyad’s application because they hate Eyad’s coach and his case to secure the investigator’s report. They hate the idea of David Wright receiving justice. In my opinion if Eyad was coached by Mat Woofe for example his application would be in Zurich by now. His application would have been approved by the IOC and Eyad would be $7000 richer. Damages however are for another day. For that SNZ will have to answer to a higher authority than Eyad and me.

As I say I do not think the NZOC are responsible for anything that has happened here. Their attitude recently confirms their good intentions. However I think the NZOC has been led astray by SNZ. And SNZ, in my opinion, have been guilty of discrimination caused by their hatred of Eyad’s coach. And that discrimination is just as vicious, just as wrong, as if it was discrimination because Eyad is an Arab Muslim. The effect of Eyad’s nationality and religion are only relevant because of the catastrophic appearance they give to this discrimination. As I say, I do not think it is racist. But it does give that impression.

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