Archive for October, 2021


Sunday, October 24th, 2021

A particularly knowledgeable New Zealand coach recently sent me a quote from the Athletics New Zealand website. Here is what it says.

Coaching – What do Dame Yvette Corlett, Sir Peter Snell, Sir John Walker, Tom Walsh, Dame Valerie Adams, Nick Willis and Eliza McCartney all have in common? They were all developed by grass roots domestic coaches who work within our network of 170+ clubs nationwide.

Exactly. For twenty-five years I tried to pass that message on to Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Finally, SNZ saw the light and dropped its $26million obsession with centralised training. SNZ never said it, but the message was loud and clear. Bruce Cotterill was wrong. Swimming was going to find another, better way. That and the cost and casualties were too high even for Miskimmin and Cotterill.

But there are other Bruce Cotterills lurking, perfectly capable of destroying the progress made by SNZ. The Garden of Eden temptation of a centralisation sporting apple has not gone away. It will be difficult to hold firm to the truth of the Athletics New Zealand website. SNZ will be offered the delights of centralised control from many sporting serpents. For example.

High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ)

Do not think for a second HPSNZ has given up on its centralised sport ambitions. Elite centralised coaching requires lots of money. HPSNZ controls lots of money. Money gives HPSNZ the power to build empires. HPSNZ bureaucrats like building empires. Therefore, centralised coaching remains their preferred option.

Right now, swimming is the one that got away. HPSNZ put $26million into the SNZ slot machine and lost the lot. But beware, HPSNZ has not forgotten. Raelene Castle will be back. Controlling her Garden of Eden depends on it. We can only hope SNZ has the strength to turn the serpent away. The path taken by Athletics New Zealand is a better one.       

False Prophets

Sport in New Zealand is littered with “experts”. Usually, they are parents who follow their son or daughter into the sport. In no time at all they have the way forward for the sport nailed. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” was invented to describe this group. SNZ has a perfect example. The author of the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page. I doubt he has ever swum a length in anger. He has certainly only been around for five minutes. But he sure knows how Steve Johns and Gary Francis should run the sport. For example, a recent Kiwi Swimming post said this.

“Clareburt’s great performances were achieved in spite of Swimming NZ, not because of the federation.”

The implication is that Swimming New Zealand needs to get involved with Clareburt’s Olympic preparation. After spending 25 years getting SNZ out of coaching, SNZ could do without this Kiwi Swimming nonsense. Of course, the author’s zero knowledge of swimming is the problem. He never knew the destruction SNZ caused. He was too busy putting coffee where it doesn’t belong.

He complains about swimming winning no Olympic medals since Danyon Loader and then promotes the same system that caused that poor performance. Is that wilful ignorance or an IQ problem? Who knows? Perhaps it comes from a vacuum, “a space entirely devoid of matter.” Whatever the reason, beware of false prophets.

Greed for the Easy Buck

Good policy can easily be reversed. The best excuse is the lure of easy money. If I am right and the SNZ Board is on the prowl to extend itself into learn-to-swim, then this temptation is already real. I have no idea why any Board would follow a $26million dollar failure with a socialist effort to get involved in another activity that is none of its business. SNZ’s job is to facilitate an environment where private swim schools make more money. SNZ does not exist to line its pockets with other people’s money.

If centralised control of sport worked Saudi Arabia would be hugely successful. But for all their centralised power and money Saudi Arabia has only won two Olympic bronze medals. Tom Walsh has done better than that without going anywhere near a centralised coaching regime. I doubt that Arch Jelley or Arthur Lydiard ever received a centralised dollar. I remember Arthur showing me a letter he had sent to HPSNZ asking for help with paying the postage on the dozens of letters he wrote to athletes and coaches asking for his advice. HPSNZ’s reply was a flat refusal – nothing, not a penny. Let the pensioner pay his own postage. HPSNZ had SNZ’s inflated costs to look after.

For twenty years Arch Jelley has provided me and many others with coaching advice. Did HPSNZ assist his costs? Of course not. Not when there was $26million needed to pay for SNZ’s 22 staff, its cars and its failed attempt to coach a fast swimmer.

SNZ needs to learn from its recent history. The mistakes of the past are instructive. Those who inhabit Antares Place should read and learn from what has worked at Athletics New Zealand. You see, while SNZ was spending HPSNZ’s $26million for no medals, New Zealand track and field athletes were winning 8 medals, coached by local club coaches, who I’m picking were also paying for their postage.


Thursday, October 21st, 2021

This post was going to be titled, “New Zealand Tennis Player Wins World’s Fifth Grand Slam.” Except that wouldn’t be true. The player is Cameron Norrie. He learned his tennis in New Zealand. He has just earned $US1,209,730 for winning the 2021 Indian Wells tennis event. So, what’s wrong with my headline?

Cameron Norrie does not play for New Zealand. He should. He happily learned to play here until some idiot, employed by the New Zealand Tennis Federation, told him he’d never be any good at tennis. Norrie went off to play for his mother’s home country, the United Kingdom. And so, the UK now has the Indian Wells 2021 champion. Tennis on the other side of the world is reaping the benefit of Norrie’s success. And all because some Federation bureaucrat in New Zealand couldn’t keep his mouth shut on a subject, he clearly knew nothing about.

The unusual feature of this story is that the current Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) CEO, Steve Johns, was the CEO of Tennis New Zealand when Norrie was sent packing. But I am not blaming Johns for the loss. Johns is not responsible for the policies that resulted in the arrogance of New Zealand sport. That destructive feature is down to people like Miskimmin, Castle and in SNZ, Bruce Cotterill. Johns was the poor bugger left to implement their flawed orders.

The same egotistical policy that lost New Zealand Tennis, Norrie, has certainly happened in swimming. When Jane Copland was 15 years old, I sent her to Tasmania and Sydney to swim in World Cup events. New Zealand’s National Coach, Brett Naylor, accosted her in their Sydney hotel. He tore her apart with a tirade that included his view that she would never be any good. She should go back to New Zealand. She was an embarrassment to her country. It was an assault that, in my opinion, should have seen him banned from every pool in the country.

In Germany, a week later, Jane broke the New Zealand Age Group 100IM record. Two years later she was New Zealand Open Champion and double open New Zealand record holder. But she also couldn’t wait to leave a country whose National Coach had called her an embarrassment. She left to swim at university in the United States. She swam in the NCAA finals and won the Central American 200m breaststroke championships for someone else.

After the Sydney assault, at the Open Nationals in Dunedin, Naylor attempted to have a conversation with Jane. Evidentially she was no longer an embarrassment. Before Naylor could speak Jane said, “I think you and I should maintain our distance, Mr. Naylor.” She was as good as her word.

You can read Jane’s version of these events at the following link. ‘Pawns in adult power games’ (

But Jane is not the only victim of SNZ centralised arrogance. History is littered with the remains of swimmers who, hurt and disillusioned, have abandoned the sport. No organisation loses 3045 members since 2002 without a cause.

In the 2021 Annual Report, SNZ told me this.

“And finally, I want to acknowledge the emphasis placed by the Board on Membership Protection. Every club member in our extended swimming whanau must be assured that their safety remains an unequivocal priority and that any form of physical or mental abuse is totally unacceptable. Open channels of communication are available through our Membership Protection Officer, respecting absolute confidentiality and with reassurance that every voice will be heard.”

That is a lie. Otherwise explain to me how else SNZ would describe a senior staff member trapping a lone 15-year-old girl in a Sydney hotel, late at night, and call her an embarrassment to her country, who should leave Australia and go home to New Zealand the next day. The claptrap in the Report might mean something if anything had been done, anything at all, to censure a SNZ bully. And don’t tell me SNZ didn’t know. After Jane’s phone call telling me about the assault on her, I rang SNZ to tell them what had happened. I was told it would be investigated. I would soon hear back. I’m still waiting.

As so often happens with this sort of cruelty, SNZ never spoke to Jane again. The message was clear. Naylor was the victim. Jane was a bitch. She was abused twice, once by Naylor and a second time by the organisation.    

But it is not too late. There is no statute of limitations on this sort of abuse. If “safety remains an unequivocal priority and that any form of physical or mental abuse is totally unacceptable.” And if, “every voice will be heard” for a second time SNZ, you have been told.

Or is the SNZ Annual Report “a tale … full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.” I think the few SNZ members left know full well where the truth lies. If the SNZ Board, if the Report’s author, Dave Gerrard, want to demonstrate the emphasis they place on membership protection – prove it. Because until you do, like me, the members don’t believe you.  


Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

I am finding discussing the use of drugs in East German swimming very interesting. My previous two posts have argued that the involvement of the state in the drug programme, forced on the GDR National Swim Team, was wrong – but in the example of their High-Altitude Coach, employed by me in New Zealand, there were mitigating circumstances. In the case of Mike Regner my posts were the case for the defence.

I received the following email in response to the Swimwatch posts. It is deeply interesting. It puts the case for the prosecution far better than I did. Here is what the email says.   

“One point needs deeper consideration: the mention of 100k etc and how that showed western coaches and programs and swimmers what they were not doing… true but what needs to be taken into account is what the GDR girls and former teammates of my own wife etc etc have to say about that, as well as the scientific records that point in the same direction: as you know, recovery and its meaning to the ability to go hard again session after session after session are important factors. 

The doping and the dosages of that were timed to make the windows of recovery between monstrous amounts of work much narrower than other swimmers who were not being assisted could manage. Take this example:

day 1 … morning swim set 8.5km…. 2-4pm, 20km cross country ski … 6-8pm … 8-10km back in the pool

make that 14 days, alternating ski with weights and other cross=sport activities…. and during that period provide the drugs that speed recovery, enhance muscle growth and allow the athlete to return feeling ready for the next session throughout that 2-week camp (one of several across the course of a year) and then consider the advantage the drugs conferred not just on race day but on many, many training days. It wasn’t that the best of the west were lazy etc… they simply couldn’t have kept up with it; or at least could not have matched it but could probably have achieved more than they thought possible at the time, which may go some way to explaining what the unassisted among Americans were capable of during those years when they remained the biggest threat to GDR dominance.”

The email seems to be making two points. First the East German use of steroids enabled their athletes to train harder than in the west. Second, the East German use of steroids enabled their athletes to benefit from the training more than was possible without drugs.

I disagree with the first argument and agree with the second.

I see no reason why athletes in the west, without drugs, could not have managed two or even ten weeks of the East German training shown in the email. I have repeated their training in the first table below.

Time Training
Morning Swim 8.5k
Lunch Weights or cross-country ski or run
Afternoon Swim 8-10k

I have coached several swimmers (Rhi Jeffrey Olympic Gold, Toni Jeffs Commonwealth Bronze, Jane Copland Oceania Silver) who have swum, without drugs, the following daily schedule and have done it for a ten-week period.

Time Training
Morning Swim 10k
Morning after the swim One hour of weights
Afternoon Swim 6k

My wife Alison who ran for New Zealand and Great Britain frequently did ten weeks of the following schedule, without drugs. The total was 110 miles in a week.

Time Training
Morning Run 13k
Lunch Run 6.5k
Afternoon Run 6.5k usually hill repetitions

Before the Mexico Olympic Games, I trained with Pru Chapman who swam the 200IM at the Games. We were coached by Wellington doctor, Dr. Ongley. Leading up to the Games once a week, on a Saturday, he set us the following program.

Time Training
Morning 6-8am Swim easy distance 6k
Morning 8-8.30am Breakfast usually 6 raw eggs in a milkshake
Morning 8.30-10.30 Bike ride around Wellington bays
Morning 10.30-11.30 Heavy weights
Morning 11.30-12.30 Pirie 100m running sprints – usually did about 80
Afternoon 12.30-2.30 Lunch and rest another serving of 6 raw eggs in a milkshake
Afternoon 2.30-3.30 Light weights high repetitions
Afternoon 3.30-4.00 One Mt.Victoria hill sprint to exhaustion
Afternoon 4.00-6.00 Swim sprints 5k

 And so, as you can see, doing the East German training is not a problem. I would have no difficulty setting the weekly schedule described in the email. In fact, I’m surprised they only did it for two weeks. Lydiard, and I suspect Jelley and certainly me would have wanted at least ten weeks.

And so, if doing the training can be done without drugs, what benefit are they? Why did the East Germans have a state programme devoted to their use? To understand that we need to clarify two problems associated with the amount of training shown in these tables.

Problem One  

In order to swim or run these programmes takes years of conditioning. Lydiard thought five years. I think that might be optimistic. Being strong enough to handle any of the training shown in those tables takes a long time. I was never strong enough to handle Dr. Ongley’s Saturday schedule. Every week was spent recovering before doing it again.

Problem Two  

The purpose of training is to race faster. As a general rule the harder you can train, and recover, the faster you will race. Getting western swimmers and runners to do the East German training is not a problem. Making sure they recover in order to achieve a racing benefit is the trick.

And so, the reason East Germany was into drugs was not to do the training. We can all do the training. The reason they used drugs was to solve Problem One and Problem Two. Eventually, with time, clean athletes and coaches have solved the same two problems. Five or six years of time. The East German’s wanted results a lot quicker than that. And that’s what drugs provided. What takes a clean athlete 5 or 6 years to achieve East German chemists got it done in weeks.

PS – Every week as part of my treatment for a kidney problem the local hospital give me three injections of EPO. The boost I get is immediate and startling. No, I’m not dusting off my Speedos in preparation for the Paris 100 free. But it does highlight the incredibly dangerous temptation of all those drugs.   


Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

In my previous Swimwatch post I discussed the decision to employ East German swim coach Mike Regner. In response to the post, I received an email that said, “Would like to hear more about that story you tell … v interesting.”

But before doing that I should make it clear that the decision to employ Mike in no way affects my certainty that those who were in charge of East German sport need to be sanctioned. There is no excuse for the destruction they produced. And at last, it seems the world and FINA are correcting the pain those men caused.

After all, my family was personally affected by East German cheating. My wife, Alison ran for Great Britain and Scotland in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On many occasions she crossed paths with athletes high on steroids. On the 11 February 1981, Alison represented the UK at Cosford in a dual indoor meet against East Germany. We all knew her opposition was full of testosterone.  

However, for the reasons discussed in my previous post I put Mike into a different category. I would probably make the same decision again. But I also recognise there is an opposite and equally valid point of view.

Before we finish discussing East German drugs, it is important to say that while Mike was in New Zealand there was never the slightest hint that he was involved with drugs – and believe me I was looking. So, what did I notice?

Well shortly after he arrived in New Zealand, I sat with Mike beside the Freyberg Pool in Wellington and discussed the East German use of performance enhancing drugs. Mike showed me his meticulously handwritten diary that recorded the name of the swimmer each time she was sent to the medical centre for a drug injection. It is somehow more stark, more horrifying when you sit next to the author and see, in his careful handwriting, “Silky Horner to the medical centre.” Written in German of course. But there it was, page after page of written proof that what the world suspected, was real. The abuse was true. Sitting beside a peacefully naïve Wellington swimming pool made the horror of seeing the endless blackness of world swimming, even worse. The contrasting shock was seismic.

But it wasn’t only the drugs. Mike’s description of the abuse inflicted on coaches and swimmers alike was stunning. The damage to swimmer’s health was known and accepted. Deformed and stillborn babies were a price accepted by the state for sporting success. The cost of failure was impossible to believe. The price of missing training would never be accepted in the west. Cars were taken away. State apartments were closed. Income was withdrawn. Wives and husbands were never allowed to travel with teams. The risk of defection was too high. Mike was constantly reminded of his army rank and the penalties that would come with disobedience.

 Mike described a life that those raised in a western democracy would find impossible to understand. At least I did.

Even when Mike arrived in New Zealand his unfiltered communist background affected him as well. For example, he had no idea of the value of money. He asked for what he wanted and expected it to arrive. The words “affordable” and “not affordable” had no meaning. To Mike it seemed this was the west, this was Hollywood where money flowed like water. The state had provided all his needs, all his life. Why couldn’t I do the same in New Zealand?

So, there were negatives to employing an East German coach. But there were huge positives as well.

Head Coach of our Wellington team was Gary Hurring. Gary was an ex-swimmer. He was New Zealand Sportsman of the Year, Commonwealth backstroke champion and had placed 4th in the Berlin World Championships and the Los Angeles Olympic Games. He probably would have won the Moscow Olympics but politics saw an end to that. He had also become a first-class coach.

I was concerned about how well Gary and Mike would get on. I could tell Gary was a little nervous about Mike’s arrival. There was no need to worry. When Mike arrived, he fitted into the team without a problem. Clearly, he was very used to observing the reporting structure he was given. I think Gary would agree, the two of them got on well.

From Mike I also learned the value of education. To become a swimming coach Mike had done a four-year university degree in swim coaching. It was at university he had studied the methods of Lydiard. He found it difficult to understand how people like Gary and me with degrees in the arts ended up coaching and running a swim team. And as for the SNZ weekend coaching courses, they were completely beyond his comprehension. “How can you,” he asked, “learn as much in 8 days as I took 4 years to learn. And after 4 years no one would let me anywhere near a real swimmer.”  

Once Mike finished his swimming degree he was only qualified to become the most junior member of a team. Whatever the East German equivalent of a tea boy was, that’s where Mike started. He was gradually promoted until he became the country’s Head Coach for high altitude training. New Zealand needs to improve its swim coaching education.

Drills are a well-accepted part of swim coaching today. But when Mike arrived in New Zealand they were not nearly as well known. Consequently, I found the unusual drills he got the team to do very strange indeed. So did most of the rest of Wellington. Of course I asked what were they all about? Mike explained, the drills stayed, and the team improved.

The East German system and Mike as a coach, founded their swimming programme on aerobic distance conditioning. The success of their programme was not only about steroids. East Germany invented 100k a week of aerobic conditioning before any of us – even the Australians. I’m not saying steroids were not a cheating method of getting to 100k swum. Of course they were. But swimmers still had to swim the 100k. While the rest of the world thought 60k was a huge week’s work, Mike was at 7,000 feet somewhere in the world churning out 100k. Of course, steroids helped but so did the 100k.  

It is sad beyond belief that the west has blamed drugs as their excuse for losing to East German swimmers. It meant that the legitimate things we could have learned were lost. It was too easy for western coaches to bury their heads in the sand. Drugs excused everything. Don’t think for a second that I am soft on drugs. I’m not. But my contact with Mike showed there was more to East German swimming success than a hypodermic needle full of testosterone.

Mike stayed in New Zealand for three years. He returned to Germany to begin a successful career in sport’s broadcasting. His swim coaching career was the good, the bad and the ugly. And as a result, I learned a lot. I learned what a legitimate future could look like. I learned what dark crimes to avoid. “Silky Horner to the medical centre” is not something you quickly forget. It is sad my country missed the opportunity of Mike’s knowledge and his brilliant coaching brain.


Sunday, October 17th, 2021

I’m still not sure. When it was my turn to decide I voted for acquittal. Here is what happened. You can decide.

This week the author of the Swim-Vortex Facebook page, Craig Lord, reported the following:

“FINA Bureau will be asked by President Husain Al-Musallam to discuss and vote on stripping Dr. Lothar Kipke of the award he received from the international federation and global regulator of aquatics back in the 1980s as a member of the FINA Medical Commission and a key protagonist in the Sporting Crime of the 20th Century.

Kipke, now 92, tub-thumped for clean sport one side of the Berlin Wall but on the other was to be found ramming needles full of steroids in the backsides of young girls as part of State Research Plan 14:25.

Better late than never. The world of water and well beyond is watching.”

For readers who want to read Craig Lord’s full report, here is the link.

Hail The Day When The Criminal Kipke Is A Member Of The FINA Family No More At The Dawn Of Hope On Healing & Reconciliation – StateOfSwimming

In the 1980’s, when East German Dr. Kipke was in the process of almost destroying the sport, in the name of state glory, I got involved in the fringes of East German swimming. I was looking to employ a swim coach in New Zealand. I read in the Dominion newspaper that an East German national coach, Major Mike Regner, had escaped from East Germany and was looking for a coaching position in the west. It took some time to track him down but eventually the German Embassy in Australia provided his phone number.

We had a long chat. Mike was a national coach of the East German women’s team with special responsibility for their high-altitude training program. Our conversation quickly confirmed he certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to swimming. For example, he was well aware of Lydiard’s training principles. And amazingly he offered the information that Arch Jelley was applying similar methods to the coaching of Walker, Dixon and Quax. I explained that his information about Dixon and Quax was a little exaggerated. I could not help but think how many New Zealand coaches would know the training principles of an East German coach and three of his or her star pupils. I was impressed.  

Of course, we also discussed drugs. I was aware that if Mike came to New Zealand, the press, TVNZ, Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) and my employer would be most concerned about Mike’s involvement in East German’s drug programme. Mike was very open about what was going on behind the Berlin Wall. He said his diary recorded every visit of elite swimmers to the medical centre for their steroid shot.

I asked the obvious questions. “Mike why didn’t you refuse to take part? What did you do to stop it happening? No one was better placed than you. Why didn’t you use that power to save abused female swimmers?”

This was his reply. “David, I am a Major who has deserted from the East German army. I am a national coach who has deserted from the state team.  I have caused enormous bad press to my country. I have a wife and young son. I forced them to come with me and crawl through two barbed wire fences, patrolled by armed guards who would shoot us instantly. Can any coach in any western country say they have done as much as I did to get out of the poison that is East German sport than I have?”

I realised Mike was using the Nuremberg defence. “I was under orders, I had to do it,” was the frequent claim of Hitler’s lieutenants at their trial. But Mike and his family had got out. The risk to his family and himself had been extreme. Certainly, far more acute than me sitting in New Zealand passing judgement from 12,000 miles away. I accepted Mike’s argument.

My next question was, why New Zealand? Surely Mike’s record would get him a position in Europe or the United States. Mike disagreed. New Zealand was exactly what he wanted. A high-profile position in Europe or the United States would encourage East Germany to kidnap or kill him and his family. New Zealand was a peaceful western country, well away from the “mainstream”. New Zealand offered safety.

And so, I employed Mike and brought him and his family to New Zealand. Sadly, I got more benefit from his time here than anyone. His knowledge and ideas on coaching were stunning. And of course, I’m not talking about drugs. The legitimate world of possibilities he opened to my knowledge of swim coaching was beyond belief. Mike was a Jelley, a Lydiard, a Tonks, a Robertson, an Allan.

SNZ of course wanted nothing to do with him. They preferred to live in their Pelorus House cave oblivious to another wasted opportunity. The press and television too found it difficult to get past the question of drugs. They say prophets are seldom recognised at home. New Zealand was not Mike’s home. But he was a prophet that the establishment, as so often happens in New Zealand, scorned.

I did not. My coaching benefitted from my acceptance. However, I may have been wrong. Perhaps the circumstances never justify the drug abuse that was East German swimming. Or perhaps “let him who is without sin amongst you cast the first stone.” I do not know. What would you have done? Guilty or not guilty.