Several times recently I have used the expression, “fish rot from the head down”. As New Zealand watched the blatant corruption of Cycling New Zealand (CNZ) and the manipulation of power at Canoe Racing New Zealand (CRNZ) it is difficult not to reach the conclusion that Raelene Castle’s Sport New Zealand is as bent as a bad penny.

But the corruption, it appears, begins a lot further up than Sport New Zealand. Alison sent me an article she found published in the Guardian. It is well worth a read. Here is the link:

Fixer. Spiritual leader. Corruptor. But what secrets did Lamine Diack take to his grave? | Lamine Diack | The Guardian  

The article describes the life of Lamine Diack, who at 88 years, died on Friday. Now this guy had real power. Raelene Castle is a very minor pilot-fish compared to the Diack shark. For 16 years Diack was the head of global athletics. Lord Seb Coe who likes to style himself as closer to God than any of us, called Diack, “athletics’ spiritual leader”. The problem was a French Court discovered spiritual leader Diack had an honesty problem – like the $4.1 million he took in bribes to cover up 23 cases of Russian doping and the $3.1 million he was paid for African votes to award the Olympic Games to Rio and the 100s of expensive Seiko watches he demanded be given to his friends before the 2015 Beijing world athletic championships or the $100,000 fine he demanded be paid by the Albanian weightlifting federation before Diack would vote for them to take part in the Games. The French court thought it was all a bit much and sentenced Diack to five years in jail. He avoided that sanction by hiding in his home country, Senegal.

But the real problem with people like Diack is described in the Guardian as follows.

Lamine Diack was the last of the great sports dictators, people who – like Sepp Blatter, Juan Antonio Samaranch, João Havelange and Primo Nebiolo – could pretty much do what they liked with their federations. It was an opportunity to basically create a fiefdom that you controlled with total power.

And that’s where pilot-fish Castle comes in. On a much smaller scale she has a fiefdom controlled with total power. And below her, each New Zealand sport is a smaller fiefdom controlled with total power. Every sports constitution enshrines that principle. Acceptance of the “Fiefdom Principle” is a condition Sport New Zealand applies to any National Sporting Organisation (NSO) wanting Diack’s (opps sorry) Sport New Zealand’s money. No money unless Sport New Zealand can appoint half your Board.

It would be hard to convince me that Sport New Zealand did not want to see Alan Thompson expelled from CRNZ and was prepared to pay to have it done. Does anyone believe that the $20,000 paid for Podmore’s silence didn’t come from Sport New Zealand and how is that different from Diack selling votes or covering up Russian drug cheats? A bribe is a bribe whether it is paying off 23 drug cheats or an over-sexed cycling coach. The amounts might be different, the corruption is the same. I’ll pay you to keep quiet. Cycling New Zealand cheated at the Olympics because it thought that is what the boss wanted. The culture of the cheat starts with Diack, is transferred through Castle and ends up infecting us all.

Swimming New Zealand called me into their office a few years ago demanding that I explain why I accepted sponsorship of $100,000 from Brian Le Gros’ strip club. I had, they said, brought the sport into disrepute. I went to the meeting and explained that Swimming New Zealand had advertised Brian’s club on the back page of their monthly magazine. Swimming New Zealand gave me the sponsorship idea. They got $50. I got 2000 times more. The meeting ended rather quickly. Disrepute and corruption, I guess, are in the eye of the beholder.  

I see no evidence that Castle has the moral character to block the transfer of corruption. In fact, her most recent allocation of funds suggests she is prepared to finance three more years of the “Fiefdom Principle”. Her use of non-disclosure clauses and confidentiality agreements is not the action of an honest broker. They are straight out of the Diack playbook. Sadly, for sport in New Zealand, it is not a playbook we should be using. To change it we must first change New Zealand’s current spiritual leader – Raelene Castle.      

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