Words fail to describe the rampant corruption – no, that is not too strong a word – that exists in New Zealand’s sport bureaucracy. As Sport New Zealand subverted democracy and bought its way into power in swimming the sport became increasingly dishonest. Many Swimwatch posts have relayed the deceit that characterised the years that followed. With the realisation that Sport New Zealand could not buy sporting success in swimming, they cut their annual grant by 60%. Today, Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) maybe poorer but character has always been more important than money. As each year goes by and the involvement of Sport New Zealand gets less and less, SNZ has become a cleaner and better place.

But Sport New Zealand never gave a moments thought to the question of whether their policy of financial control and centralised training might be flawed. Oh no, their reaction was to look for other prey. And before long Sport New Zealand was in bed with cycling.

And in the years that followed the same behaviour we saw in swimming has been evident in cycling. Investigation after investigation, report after report, a revolving door of coaches and CEOs, lie after lie and bad decisions like the recruitment of a hurdles athlete to cycle in the Commonwealth Games. Many times, I called swimming, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I could say the same thing about cycling, except this time it is far more serious than Monty Python. So serious that it ended the life of an Olympic athlete and, from all I’ve been told, a fine, hardworking, honest to a fault, gentle person, Olivia Podmore.

That is where Sport New Zealand’s money has taken the sport of cycling.

Before the Rio Olympic Games Olivia Podmore observed some bad behaviour involving a CNZ staff member and an athlete. No one will say but I assume a female athlete. After the Games the incident was investigated by CNZ. Podmore was asked to tell the investigation what she knew. But before giving her evidence she was pressured by someone to lie, to take part in a cover-up. Podmore was expected to protect cycling from the truth, to save the lifestyle of CNZ’s fat-cat bureaucrats.

What a terrible, terrible position for Podmore to be in. Her sport depended on these people. Her income depended on these people. Without their money she had no apartment, no food or drink and no sport. And so understandably she went along with the cover-up. Sport New Zealand’s money bought her silence.

Eventually the strain was too much, and Olivia Podmore took her life. But make no mistake, in my opinion, whoever orchestrated the cover-up using Sport New Zealand’s money were accessories to her death and should be treated accordingly. Like some Mafia Don Sport New Zealand may not have been present when Podmore died but their greed and their money were responsible. At least they were in my opinion.

Why do I feel that way? Because for 25 years Swimwatch fought similar abuse in swimming. Never with cycling’s tragic result. But career ending never-the-less. I wonder if anyone in CNZ thinks Sport New Zealand’s $5.3million last year was worth the price? I don’t think so. It never is.

And that brings us to an article published on the Stuff website earlier this week. The author, Zoe George, makes several important points about the progress of the Podmore investigation. The balance of this post will consider each of these.   

The inquiry into cycling is set to miss the first major deadline. A draft report was due before Christmas, but now it is expected to be delivered in February.

There is no excuse for this delay. Of course, COVID 19 restrictions in Cambridge are being blamed. However, the effect of the lockdown on Cambridge has been minimal. In addition, this first report is a preliminary draft. A progress document could have easily been produced using Skype or Zoom. The delay of two months is disrespectful to the primary purpose of the investigation. It certainly does not sit well when the panel bandy around Maori words like “hui” in their press release and disrespect the dead in their actions. Culturally sensitive? No, I don’t think so. The panel’s performance so far “F-“.    

The inquiry will address the impact of HPSNZ funding in cycling and whether having a centralised training hub in Cambridge is beneficial.

Are they really going to address this issue? They had better. Because in those 22 words lie the heart and soul of the problem. Cycling, rowing, canoeing and swimming can have every psychologist in the country working for them – but Sport New Zealand’s money corrupts and $5.3million a year corrupts absolutely. The CNZ investigation has a 25-year swimming case study at their fingertips. Eventually SNZ realised centralised training and a bank vault of money did not work and discarded the whole thing. Apart from Podmore’s death making it worse, why should the cause be any different. Years ago, the Ineson Report on swimming, prepared by Sport New Zealand, said what I am saying now. Sport New Zealand didn’t like that, so they discarded his findings. Another investigator was found to write what they wanted to read. The waste, the corruption and now the death continued.    

CNZ and HPSNZ “will ensure that no person who takes part in the Inquiry will be subjected to retaliation or retaliatory action and will “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of anyone who cooperates, in good faith, with the panel.”

Does anyone really believe that’s true? Remember these are the guys who forced Podmore to lie in the first place. These are the guys who orchestrated the cover-up. When Sport New Zealand money is the prize, they would run over their grandmother if needed. If it were my son or daughter, I wouldn’t let him or her participate with these thugs. I’d deal directly with the lawyers but only if CNZ and HPSNZ were subject to the harshest controls. Do not trust them a second time.

Even their assurance to the athletes is qualified. “In good faith” – who decides what that means? This post has been written “in good faith” but CNZ and HPSNZ won’t think so. For 25 years, SNZ never thought any Swimwatch post was written “in good faith”. This new CNZ lot won’t be any different. Remember, $5.3million corrupts absolutely.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.