Don’t Believe Me? Try Chairman Cotterill

For years every man and his dog has banged on about the Marris investigation. Nikki Johns and Susan Turner have had their say. I must have written a hundred thousand words on the subject. Stuff news provided their 3000 word contribution last weekend. Everyone it seems has an opinion. Some of Johns’ mates think that David Wright is the ultimate “creep”. Others defend my coaching and reputation.

But the issues being considered here are not the topic of a popularity competition. They are far too serious. For that reason I am pleased that an investigator as thorough and tough as Michael Marris was chosen to examine the case. Did Turner and Johns tell the truth or was there a political motive to their accusations? Was their evidence tainted by the political motive of getting rid of me as a coach and replacing me with the lurking David Lyles? There were multiple issues that needed to be resolved.

But all through the three years we heard nothing from Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). In my view their silence was self-serving. SNZ had read the Marris Report. They knew that the best way to hurt a well-known critic was to say nothing. They knew that in these cases the most likely conclusion is that people will believe the worst. David Wright could die in the swimming world if SNZ did nothing; if SNZ held onto the Marris Report; if SNZ refused to let anyone read it except themselves; if SNZ spent a fortune on keeping its contents secret. This was not about justice. This was about revenge. So that is what SNZ did – nothing.

Until last weekend when Stuff journalist, Dana Johannsen, called the Chairman of SNZ, Bruce Cotterill and asked why SNZ had been found guilty of interfering in my privacy by the New Zealand Privacy Commission. Why had the Commission recommended SNZ undertake a course of privacy training; hardly a good look for a national sporting organisation.

Cotterill spun his normal line of flannel as he struggled to justify the unjustifiable. For example he said, “There were a series of recommendations made, and every one of those recommendations was followed through. To my knowledge that involved going back to each of the people that participated in the review, and sharing the outcome of the review. If you’re talking to people that are saying that hasn’t happened, then those people haven’t talked to me, and I’m not aware of it.”

What a ridiculous, pathetic, bald-faced piece of nonsense.

For three years I have written a hundred thousand words asking to see the Marris Report. For one year the Privacy Commissioner for New Zealand has discussed my complaint with SNZ. For a month the Human Rights Tribunal has asked SNZ to defend its decision to refuse providing me with the Marris Report. And now Cotterill is telling the world people like me “haven’t talked to me, and I’m not aware of it.” If Cotterill says I haven’t spoken to him about the problem, what on God’s good earth does a member of the sport need to do to attract his attention? A hundred thousand words, a government inquiry and a Court case and the Chairman says he is not aware of it. I guess I find that difficult to believe. Cotterill will probably be claiming Dana Johannsen misquoted him next.

But hidden in all the spin was this gem. Cotterill said:

“What I can say is if there was anything in that report which justified Swimming NZ taking action against any party involved in the review, we most certainly would have done so.”

I bet that’s right.  If the Marris Report had found me guilty, the Marris findings would have been given to me and my punishment would have been swift and painful.

Is what Cotterill says a positive sign? You can never tell with SNZ. Does it mean that there is nothing in the Marris Report that “justifies Swimming NZ taking action against” me? That is what Cotterill seems to be saying. Certainly no action has been taken against me. Because if Cotterill’s admission means that no action against me was required then I want to know why Cotterill has ignored the false accusations made by Turner and Johns. The SNZ disciplinary policy is very clear. Members who make false accusations about another member are subject to sanction. If I’m innocent then someone lied. SNZ policy says this, the “Disputes & Disciplinary Policy shall only apply where: the alleged breach relates to a complaint made under the Code of Conduct or Member Protection Policy which the complainant knew was untrue.”

It could well be time to provide me with the Marris Report and begin a hearing into those who made some pretty malicious false accusations. There is work for you to do Chairman Cotterill.

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