In my previous Swimwatch post I discussed the avenues open to sport’s men and women who had “judicial” sporting problems to resolve. The post concluded with the recommendation that a Department of Justice managed Court or Tribunal offered more security and honesty than sport-based justice.

My conclusion ended with the following comment.

It is interesting that I have never heard of an enquiry case or an NSO case or a SRCMS or NZST case being decided against Sport New Zealand. No wonder Raelene Castle loves those avenues. She is playing justice roulette with a wheel of 100% black numbers.

As it turns out that comment is not entirely true. I do remember one case where a Sport New Zealand investigation found against Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). It was almost a case of the exception proving the rule. Here is what happened.

At the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games I was coaching swimming team member, Toni Jeffs. We arranged for Toni’s mother to come to Barcelona a week before the Games began. She was booked into a lovely beach hotel just outside the city. Toni asked if I could obtain SNZ’s permission for Toni to stay outside the village in her mother’s hotel. I agreed to ask and called Bert Cotterill, the SNZ team manager, to ask for permission. He said yes, as long as we got Toni to all the team training swims and her events during the competition. And that is what happened.

I was concerned therefore when a week later I was speaking to Alison in New Zealand who wanted to know what on earth was I doing about Toni’s accommodation. I said Toni was staying with her mother in the Clos de Pines Hotel. SNZ had given their permission.

“That is not what the papers and tv are saying here,” said Alison. “They say you pulled Toni out of the village without approval. There is going to be a full investigation when you get back to New Zealand”.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, back in New Zealand, an investigation was held and Toni and I were found not guilty. SNZ had made the whole thing up. We had asked for and obtained permission. SNZ had lied. A wind-up meeting was held in Wellington. SNZ said there had been a misunderstanding. Perhaps the whole issue could be resolved with an immediate SNZ apology on the condition that Toni and I agreed to the SNZ investigation and their apology being kept confidential. Like an idiot I agreed to those conditions. I say, “like an idiot” because the only story anyone knew was that I was the coach who got his swimmer out of the village without approval. Confidentiality meant the only story New Zealand heard was the SNZ lie.  

A few weeks later I was having a tyre repaired in a garage in Pahiatua. The guy repairing the tyre said, “Hey, aren’t you the coach who removed his swimmer from the Olympic village without permission?” And so it was throughout New Zealand. I had won the case but lost the war. SNZ used confidentiality to get what they wanted at my expense. It was a costly mistake. One I will never make again.

We should learn from that example. Individual sports are not interested in justice. I do not believe for a second that Canoe Racing cares about justice for Alan Thompson or cycling cares about justice for the life of Olivia Podmore. All that matters is winning. In my case, SNZ lost, I won, but there was never any justice. Do not make my mistake.

That is why in my most recent case I went to a normal Department of Justice Tribunal rather than risk a sporting kangaroo court.        

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