Archive for the ‘ Training ’ Category

Abysmal Autocrats

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

I have no idea whether the title of this story will be approved by the Swimwatch editor. I hope so. [Slightly altered. Ed.] Sometimes exclamations, verging on profanity, are the only appropriate response. I watched an interview with Barrack Obama this week. In it he admitted to occasionally having a good cuss to himself. It cleared his mind, restored his sanity, gave him the space to move on.

This week I was prompted to use the Obama method. You see a week ago Eyad and I had a very good meeting with the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC). We were there to discuss what Eyad was required to swim in order to have his name put forward to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be part of their world refugee programme. The meeting was chaired by NZOC boss Kereyn Smith. I like Smith. She gives me the impression of being tough and straight. It is easy to deal with people like that, people whose word is their bond. I’m not so sure about the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) representatives in the room, Steve Johns and Gary Francis.

In front of Smith they were all sweetness and light, so bloody reasonable, so obsequious I felt like being sick. I popped a Prozac and resisted the urge, choosing instead to make progress on Eyad’s case for as long as Smith had the clowns under control. Eventually we agreed a good deal. Eyad knows what he has to do. SNZ knows the rules and Smith was there as a witness and referee. It had taken a while but we were, in modern parlance, moving forward all on the same page.

The first opportunity for Eyad to meet the approved conditions comes this week at the New Zealand Open Championships. The first opportunity for SNZ to prove that their good behaviour was a temporary respite in a sea of pettiness was this week at the New Zealand Open Championships. And sure enough they reverted to type.

To be fair Gary Francis did his best to continue the meeting’s good vibrations, We had a long chat on the pool deck last weekend. Right from the beginning of his employment with SNZ I have said Gary’s contribution was going to depend on whether he was strong enough to change SNZ or whether the suffocating ignorance of SNZ was going to change him.  I think Gary knows what’s right. The problem is he is not strong enough to do it.

And yesterday there was a perfect example. The club I belong to only had one coach’s pass for pool deck access to the New Zealand Championships which obviously the main club coach was using. Even if he is not at the pool the rules, I am told, do not allow me to use his pass. But fear not, in the spirit of our NZOC meeting of helping a refugee as much as we can I asked Gary if I could have a pass to be on pool deck for 120 seconds while Eyad swam a couple of 50s and a 100.

Here is Gary’s reply.

Gary Francis <gary@swimming.org.nz>To:David Wright

‎17‎ ‎Jun at ‎12‎:‎21‎ ‎PM

Hi David

Leave it with me, I’ll try and get one sorted.

Regards

Gary

All good so far. In my view that is Gary Francis doing what he knows is right but a bit scared that because it’s David Wright asking he’d better check with Count Dracula first. A few hours later Gary got his orders. Kereyn Smith was at an IOC meeting in London. Normal service was restored. And this email popped into my In-Box,

Gary Francis <gary@swimming.org.nz>To:David Wright

‎18‎ ‎Jun at ‎8‎:‎10‎ ‎AM

Hi David

I’m sorry but I have not been able to secure you an accreditation.

The Events Team will not issue any more passes for the meet.

Regards

Gary

SNZ wonder why I get so mad that I call them racist and anti-refugee. Well it’s because of this sort of rubbish. That lot are no more there to help Eyad or any swimmer than fly to the moon. The minute Kereyn Smith gets on an aeroplane to London, they revert to type. Screw Eyad, screw David Wright, screw a dozen swimmers on their way to a world championships, screw them all but make sure the members pay the inhabitants of Antares Place.

Oh, I know their excuse will be that if they handout one pass they will be in the gun for a hundred others. But that is rubbish. We are talking about a refugee here. We are talking about minutes of watching time. We are talking about helping someone whose home town in Syria, Aleppo, was bombed into a piles of blood stained rubble by the Americans, the Russians and their own government. We are talking about a man who was denied entry into public swimming poos because of his nationality. We are talking about a swimmer who never had a coach because of his nationality.

But most important of all WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A REFUGEE WHO IS BEING TREATED WITH CONTEMPT BY SWIMMING NEW ZEALAND. SNZ may wonder why I have called them racist in the past. I’ve done it because that is what this sort of behaviour deserves.

PS – I have little interest in SNZ’s B-Grade championships. But I do want to help a guy who deserves our help. And when arrogance and obstructiveness stops me doing that – then I have to cuss a bit.

PPS – I’ve been to the pool this afternoon to check on Eyad’s training.  Amazingly, I learned something new.  For the rest of the week my Club has no swimmers involved in the Championships EXCEPT EYAD!  So the Club Coach doesn’t need his pass. But he can’t give it to me because of SNZ’s ridiculous rules.  Eyad has to swim with no assistance from anyone.  Way to help a refugee you guys.  Good one SNZ. I hope you are proud of yourselves.  It would seem the lunatics are running the asylum.

What’s It All About

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW TRIBUNAL             Reference No. HRRT 011/19

UNDER THE PRIVACY ACT 1993

BETWEEN                                                                   DAVID ALEXANDER WRIGHT

PLAINTIFF

AND                                                                          SWIMMING NEW ZEALAND INC

DEFENDANT

In a few weeks this case will be heard by the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT). I am in the process of finishing my submission to the Tribunal. It is a lengthy document; involving four submissions and 18,854 words. Posting all 61 pages on Swimwatch seemed an unnecessarily difficult way of explaining what the case was all about. In fact the case is much simpler than that.

This is a dispute between me and Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). I say I am entitled to have a copy of private information contained in a Report, prepared for SNZ by an expert investigator called Michael Marris over complaints made about my coaching. The complaints were made by a parent (Susan Turner) and a swimmer (Nikki Johns) involved in the doomed West Auckland Aquatics swimming club. SNZ argue that I am not entitled to the Report.

The Privacy Commissioner ruled in my favour; SNZ should give me the Report. SNZ refused and so we will now appear before the HRRT and let them decide.

While it may take 18,854 words to discuss all that has gone on in the three years since the Report was written, the case will be decided by how the HRRT interprets three quite straight forward clauses of the Privacy Act 1993. The HRRT will decide the case, not on my 18,854 words but on the law. The sections of the Act that the HRRT will consider are:

Principle 6 says, “Where an agency holds personal information the individual concerned shall be entitled to have access to that information.”

This is the portion of the law that supports my position. SNZ, in the Marris Report, holds information personal to me and the law says I am entitled to have that information.

SNZ, on the other hand, says there are two clauses in the Privacy Act that allow it to refuse to provide me with a copy of the Report. These are:

Clause 29 Other reasons for refusal of requests

  • An agency may refuse to disclose any information if the disclosure of the information would involve the unwarranted disclosure of the affairs of another individual.
  • An agency may refuse to disclose any information if the disclosure of the information or of information identifying the person who supplied it, being evaluative material, would breach an express or implied promise.

I doubt that the HRRT is going to have any difficulty agreeing that Principle 6 provides approval for me to have access to the Report. Therefore whether I get the Report or not is going to depend on the HRRT’s view of the two exceptions allowed in the Act. My task is to say the two exceptions do not apply. SNZ, on the other hand, needs to prove that justice depends on the validity of the two exception clauses.

If SNZ manage to do that then I will not be given the Report. If I manage to convince the HRRT that the exceptions do not apply, the Report will be mine. If I am awarded the Report I am also claiming $240,600 in damages. I am fascinated to see how SNZ handle the contingent liability of a quarter of a million dollars in this year’s accounts. Conservative and correct accounting procedures require SNZ to increase their legal expenses by the amount claimed. A note in the accounts is not really good enough; especially when they have already lost the case in the Privacy Commission. But I wouldn’t bet against this lot ignoring the claim altogether.

And so the question comes down to – what are the arguments that have taken 18,854 words to explain and that I hope the HRRT will find sufficiently persuasive to rule against SNZ. Please note this post is summarizing quite complicated events in a dozen or so words. The simplicity apparent here is not necessarily accurate.

  1. I do not believe SNZ made a promise of confidentiality that included me to Turner and Johns. I would need to see that in writing.
  2. Even if a promise to them was made it has no merit because of four promises made to me.
  3. SNZ cannot make contradicting promises – one to Johns and Turner and another to me. I was promised the Report:
  • Verbally by the CEO of SNZ, Christian Renford
  • Verbally and in writing by the author of the report, Michael Marris.
  • In writing by SNZ Disputes & Disciplinary Policy rules.
  • In writing by Principle 6 of the Privacy Act 1993.
  1. The author of the Report’s email said I would “certainly” receive his Report.
  2. Both Turner and Johns have “outed” themselves by discussing their involvement in the Report on national media or social media. Johns has entered into many discussions on Facebook with her followers on the subject. By their actions Turner and Johns have admitted that SNZ’s promise of confidentiality, if it ever existed, is meaningless.
  3. SNZ have offered me a secret read only of the Report. If it was so confidential, if it was the subject of such rigid promises, why are SNZ proposing a secret read? I declined the offer.
  4. When it suits SNZ they are selectively leaking portions of the Report. Full disclosure is required to avoid the damage of their gossip and innuendo.
  5. The Report is not “evaluative material” described in the Act and is therefore not subject to any SNZ promise of confidentiality. Semi-judicial findings about criminal events are not included in the Act’s definition of “evaluative”.
  6. The Report is not for the “sole” purpose of terminating my SNZ membership and cannot be withheld on that basis. There are at least two purposes, three parties and 10 possible sanctions in this case. That is not the “sole” event described in the Act.
  7. The truthfulness, motives and behavior of Johns and Turner are an integral part of the investigation into my guilt or innocence. The disclosure to me of their veracity is part of my privacy. Its disclosure is therefore warranted.
  8. SNZ are claiming confidentiality now they know the findings of the Report. If I had been found guilty the Report’s findings would have been given to me immediately and I would have been sanctioned. Justice cannot depend on whether SNZ approve or disapprove of the verdict.
  9. I believe SNZ know the best way to hurt a well-known critic is to hold onto the Report. Stay silent and people will assume the worst. So that is what they are desperate to do.

There you have what is happening. In a few months we will know what the Tribunal decides.

Confidentiality

Friday, June 7th, 2019

Much of the debate surrounding my application to the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) for access to the Marris Report involves the word confidential. The views of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) are very different from mine.

In my view an agency responsible for a main-stream sport, dependent on public membership and reliant on the government for the majority of its funding has a duty to every New Zealander to be open and honest with as much information as possible. Members should receive Board minutes. Information on legal disputes should be posted on SNZ’s website. Members own the organisation. Almost without exception – the members need to be told what is going on.

The Board of SNZ don’t see it that way. Board minutes, that used to be published, are locked away in Steve Johns’ keeping, hidden from the membership. The clear assumption of the SNZ Board is that the organisation belongs to them. The membership is secondary, objects to be kept in the dark. I have a dozen letters and emails that in one way or another tell me SNZ’s views on an issue and add the qualification that the letter or email is confidential, not to be published under any circumstances. And to reinforce their paranoia for secrecy, I am threatened with having my membership suspended if I dare let anyone know what SNZ has said.

The contradiction between my belief in the rights of the membership to know and the Board of SNZ’s demand for secrecy is as frustrating as all can be. What does SNZ have to hide? What are they scared of SNZ’s membership finding out?

Take, for example, the decision of the Privacy Commission to find SNZ guilty of interfering in my privacy and their recommendation that SNZ undertake a course of privacy training. That is important news. The membership has a right to know that the agency responsible for their children’s sport has been found guilty of mismanaging privacy issues. Parents will be rightly concerned that their children’s information is being handled by an organisation that a government agency is recommending undertake a course in privacy.

Why weren’t those circumstances posted on the SNZ website? Why did SNZ revert to the secrecy that caused them their problems in the first place? What an ideal opportunity the current dispute would have been to turn a new leaf, to display a new openness. But instead SNZ reverted to type. They said nothing and threatened anyone who told the truth to the membership. It is disgusting.

I have published as much as I can about the Marris Report dispute. But believe me the amount I have been able to tell you, the members, is far less than I would like, far less than you should be told. My hope is that the proceedings of the HRRT together with the tradition of open justice will force SNZ’s hand. Hopefully a by-product of this dispute will result in a more democratic, a more open sport; a better place for New Zealanders to play.

After all what are SNZ so scared of? This is the sport of swimming. It is not the Five Eyes spying cartel or the secret files of the SIS. I’d love to know the policy behind the Board’s decision to hide almost everything from the membership. Are they so insecure in their ability to govern? Do they make too many mistakes? Are they up to no good? The point is we just don’t know. When our leaders hide everything, when they won’t reveal what’s in the Marris Report, we are entitled to believe the worst. Does Marris question SNZ’s handling of the investigation? Does he find incompetence? Again we just don’t know.

But be assured as far as I am able Swimwatch will report on the progress of the Marris Report dispute. I want to avoid losing my SNZ membership, although for the life of me I don’t know why. So I couldn’t get onto the pool deck at the National Championships. So what? You get a better view from the stands anyway. The last thing Eyad needs at the Nationals, is me bagging on into his ear while he warms up. Eyad would probably send SNZ a thankyou letter if I was banished into the stands.

But back to the Marris Report. No posts on Swimwatch does not necessarily mean nothing is happening. It maybe just that I have been threatened by SNZ. But fear not the truth will be told. Eventually the full story will see the light of day. If you see me sitting in the stands at a future Nationals read Swimwatch. It will probably tell you why.

Birds & Bees

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Should Caster Semenya, the South African Olympic 800m champion be allowed to compete without testosterone reducing medication? That question is bound to polarise opinion at any gathering of sports people. I understand, but do not agree with, those who believe that a high testosterone count is such a huge advantage that the integrity of woman’s sport would be permanently harmed if women like Semenya are allowed to run in their natural state.

I recently read an article written by a law professor who had also been one of America’s best middle distance runners. She strongly supported the IAAF decision to impose drug doping on Semenya in order to reduce the South African’s testosterone advantage. Unbelievably the American lawyer argued that the principle at stake was the same as Para-Olympic sport. A para athlete wanting to compete in the XY category had to have specified physical injuries. The AA category required a different set of physical problems.

The specifications were put in place to protect the fairness of Para sport. An athlete with two legs and one arm could not compete against an athlete with no legs and one arm. Women, the lawyer argued, were a similarly disadvantaged species that needed rules to protect their inherited weakness; their natural inferiority. They were a special and inferior species that needed protection. The rules Seb Coe was demanding were protecting women’s lowly status.

I am appalled by that argument. Comparing an open species of able human beings, called women, with athletes with a disability is disgusting. Being female is NOT a disability. Being female is not a handicap that needs protecting. Semanya is female with an advantage. She has more testosterone than most. So what? John Walker had inherited advantages. So did Seb Coe. So does every athlete that wins an Olympic Gold Medal. None of them are normal or average. Semenya is not normal or average either. That does not mean she should be banned or forced to take drugs to chemically alter her natural advantages.

It needs to be remembered that Semanya only just manages to beat female runners that Seb Coe would consider “normal”. Semenya’s best time is miles behind the women’s world record and the best times run by several women in the past. If Semenya’s advantage was so beneficial that it justified chemical intervention it is not working all that well.

I wonder what Coe would have thought if the IAAF had demanded he take drugs to slow him down. Not such a good idea then. And yet like many men, take abortion as an example, he is 100% happy to interfere in a woman’s right to control her own body. In this case Coe finds no problem peddling drugs to a black African women. He thinks that’s fine. In Coe’s mind how dare Semanya challenge his male view of what constitutes a normal female athlete.

That control mentality must have frustrated and annoyed women for thousands of years. I never had the problem of course. But I think I know how annoyed I’d be if some London bureaucrat called Lord Coe came to me and said, “I think you run too fast. I think you are too male. Here is a chemical, I have no idea what its side effects will be, but I’m ordering you to take it anyway. It will make you weaker and that’s good.”

Coe is disgusting. “I’m just protecting women’s sport,” he says. But he is not. He’s just another male interfering in a woman’s right to choose.

And I have no idea how some justify the logic of fighting to get drugs out of sport; some who fought for years to stop the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans and the East Germans taking performance enhancing drugs and now support the IAAF imposing a chemical regime on Semenya. Coe has become the IAAF’s Manfred Ewald and some are fine with that because Coe is making women chemically weaker. That terrible Manfred Ewald was making women chemically stronger. We can’t have that, can we? Performance enhancing drugs – bad, performance reducing drugs – good. That logic of that is beyond me.

And so I am delighted that a Swiss Court has put Lord Coe in his place; in a small misogynistic box somewhere in the south of England. The Court has ordered that the Arbitration for Sport’s ruling that Semenya must start a course of hormone therapy must be put on hold. Well done Switzerland. The good guys sometimes do win.

Drug free sport no longer means everyone except Caster Semenya. The goal of drug free sport can again become our ideal.

“The surprise news – which completely blindsided athletics’ governing body – means that the Olympic champion and other DSD athletes can compete in distances ranging from 400m to a mile without medication until at least 25 June.

Semenya’s lawyer, Greg Nott, who hailed the decision as “morally uplifting and so good for Caster”, revealed that his team had asked for the suspension when they appealed the court of arbitration for sport’s ruling in Semenya’s case last week.

“The Swiss court has ordered the IAAF to suspend immediately the implementation of the regulation with regard to Caster and has given the IAAF until the 25 June to respond to the suspense of effect,” said Nott. “It is absolutely positive news.”

Semenya’s Swiss counsel, Dr Dorothee Schramm, also welcomed the decision. “This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes,” she added.

The Swiss ruling will also encourage Semenya’s team that the Swiss federal Supreme Court could set aside the CAS decision in its entirety. They argue that the IAAF’s policy is unfair and unnecessary, and say unwanted hormonal drug interventions could have uncertain health consequences on athletes.

Semenya is supported by the World Medical Association, which has declared the IAAF regulations to be contrary to their basic ethical principles.“

In a short statement Semenya thanked the Swiss judges for their decision. “I hope that following my appeal I will once again be able to run free,” she added.

And so do I, Semenya, so do I.

Swimwatch Obsessed Or Consistent?

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

This post is my final report on the Stuff article that discusses my application before the Human Rights Tribunal to see the Marris Report into complaints made about my coaching. For some reason SNZ is running scared, determined to avoid me seeing my privacy information. Why does it do that? What is in the Marris Report that turns the President of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) into a lump of wobbly blancmange? Why is Cotterill prepared to absorb the accusation from a government agency that his organisation is in need of privacy training?

We know for certain SNZ is not protecting David Wright. That means there is either something in the Report that is so shocking about SNZ that Cotterill is prepared to put up with any shame rather than have the Report’s contents revealed. Or Cotterill is so scared of one of the complainants, Susan Turner, suing SNZ on some spurious charge that he would rather have SNZ’s reputation shredded that run the risk of Turner’s wrath.

I don’t know what it is, but in my view, there is certainly something that has exposed the limits of Cotterill’s courage – or lack of it.

This brings me to the sentence in the Stuff news article I want to discuss. The journalist, Dana Johannsen, said this.

David Wright has been, “the source of constant antagonism towards SNZ for more than a decade. The archive of his blog,” she said, “is a tome of bitterness towards the national body, with his distrust of the leadership spanning multiple regime changes.”

In my previous Swimwatch post I discussed the implications of the term “tome of bitterness towards the national body” Here is a summary of what I said.

Was it wrong to protest when New Zealand’s best swimmers were charged $5,300 each to represent the country at a World Championships? Was it a mistake to highlight the Kapiti girl who lost her front teeth diving into the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool? Was there fault in highlighting the waste involved in SNZ’s centralized training policy? Are there any of those issues that Dana thinks should have been ignored?

And today should we disregard the fact that those running the sport have chosen to flout a recommendation of the Privacy Commission? Is it wrong to be concerned that the CEO and Board of SNZ have received a government agency recommendation that they undertake a program of privacy training? Should we pretend that didn’t happen? Because if we do Dana, events occur like a few years ago when I complained about a topless photograph taken in the girls changing room at the national championships and posted on Instagram and the CEO of SNZ told me it wasn’t a problem.

So, no I do not believe the issues debated on Swimwatch are the ravings of a delusional faultfinder. What is said here might not always be right. But a lot of what is said needs to see the light of day.

Dana Johannsen also says, “his distrust of the leadership spanning multiple regime changes”.

The implication of this opinion is that I am obsessed. Johannsen is attempting to make the case that I must be a fanatic because I was a critic of an early SNZ regime. When that regime changed, when I got what I wanted, I was still a critic. When the regime changed again, I continued to be a critic and so on for what Johannsen calls “multiple regime changes”.

The phrase “multiple regime changes” is verging on fake news. A respected news organisation, like Stuff, should not indulge in embellishment. Including the current regime there have been three SNZ regimes during the current Swimwatch era. Until 2012 SNZ was managed by Chairman Coulter and CEO Byrne. Then for four or five years Chairman Layton and CEO Renford led the organization. Most recently Chairman Cotterill and CEO Johns have been in charge. So that’s three regimes. I guess that is “multiple” but three does not really meet the implications of the term “spanning multiple regime changes”. That’s a journalist wanting to peddle her personal opinion, rather than accurately report the news. The idea is to convey the view that I was a complainer who SNZ could never satisfy. My complaints represented a short-coming in me rather than SNZ.

However that is not the case. There might have been three regimes but the policies have stayed the same. My complaint is not with the six individuals who have run the place. Through the years I have said that a hundred times. My complaint is about their policies. The reason I continue to complain is because through what Stuff calls “multiple regime changes” the policies that have caused swimming to fail, have not changed. My complaint is with twenty years of the same policies not three changes of personnel.

For example in 2002 my daughter was selected to represent New Zealand in the Pan Pacific Games. She made a semi-final and shared a relay New Zealand open record. When she arrived home SNZ sent her an invoice for $3,000 for the cost of her airfare and accommodation. Move forward 16 years and New Zealand world championship swimmers were charged $5,300 to attend the World Championships in Japan. I complained in 2002 and complained again in 2018. It might be a sin, as far as Stuff is concerned, to complain about something a few regimes apart. The reality is, whether the invoice was signed by the then SNZ CEO in 2002 or by Steve Johns in 2018, the complaints are the same complaints.

The policies that have reduced New Zealand’s elite performance from two Olympic Gold medals in 1996 to one Commonwealth Bronze medal in 2018 are the focus of my concern. The same policies, in the same period, have seen income, government funding, membership and the number of coaches decline by an average of 18%. Because the leadership has changed three times should we take Stuff’s advice and ignore the sport’s steady decay?

A good analogy might be that a hard right conservative will find very little that a left wing government does acceptable. Similarly a left wing liberal will find very little to support in a conservative government. Even when the leaders change the policy differences remain. The philosophical disagreements are just too extreme. And so for example when Coulter, Byrne, Layton, Renford, Cotterill and Johns spent $30million on a failed centralised training policy – sure I complained. But, contrary to the accusation implied in the Stuff report, that was not because I was an inconsistent whinger. The reality was that for twenty years I was a consistent critic of the same policy; the same appalling waste.

Cotterill is as smooth as butter. In this case, it seems to me, he has conned the socks off a Stuff reporter who should have dug deeper into the substance of his spin than she did on this occasion.