Gerrard Down Under

November 7th, 2018

Our previous Swimwatch post discussed the involvement of the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) President, Dr Dave Gerrard, in the chaos that is the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It seems that I wrote the post a day too soon. Today Swimvortex has posted a story that points to stunning corruption in the halls of the drug agency. If half of this is true, the continued involvement of the SNZ President in WADA should disqualify him from any position in New Zealand sport.

You may be asking what has WADA done to merit such contempt. Well the movement to reform WADA is being led by a Norwegian politician called Linda Helleland. In December 2016 Helleland was elected Vice President of WADA. Relevant to this story is the fact that Helleland is only 41 years old.

Compared to many members of the WADA bureaucracy 41 is very young indeed. The Chairman Sir Craig Reedie is 77. Mr Ugur Erdener is 68. Mr Francesco Ricci Bitti is 76. And, of course Dave Gerrard is 73. It might be slightly unkind but it seems that with the exception of Linda Helleland WADA is a cosy number for a bunch of old buggers. It also seems that the old buggers don’t approve of Helleland’s reforming zeal.

Because reports from WADA in the past couple of days suggest that the old buggers are turning nasty. According to the report on Swimvortex, the WADA Executive Committee is pushing to change WADA’s eligibility rules. They want to lower the minimum age for the Presidency to 45 and introduce a minimum education requirement of a Master’s degree. Anyone below 45 without a Master’s degree would be excluded from standing for election as President.

Here is the link to the Swimvortex Facebook article – https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=swimvortex

Clearly the changes are designed to prevent Linda Helleland challenging for the Presidency. She is underage and only has a Batchelor’s degree. I don’t know how some people sleep at night. Can you imagine anything more dictatorial, anything less democratic? The whole scheme is disgusting. If Dave Gerrard has been at all complicit in hatching that scheme he should be ashamed. Mind you I suspect it’s the sort of thing Miskimmin would enjoy. He imposed equally anti-democratic rules on Swimming New Zealand. Perhaps Gerrard is following the example of our esteemed leader.

There is however one New Zealand leader Gerrard has obviously ignored. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is 38 years old and “only” has a BSC degree. She is old enough and educated enough to be Prime Minister of New Zealand but falls short of the standards required to be President of WADA. She seems to be doing a good job of running the country but is not good enough for Gerrard and his elderly mates. Ironically WADA’s head office is in Canada. The Prime Minister of that country, Justin Trudeau, is 46 and has a Batchelor’s degree. So he just makes the age cut but fails to meet the education standard. He can provide WADA with a home but isn’t good enough to be their President.

Other world leaders who have led their countries before their 45th birthday include David Cameron and Tony Blair from the UK, Viktor Orban from Hungary, Charles Michel from Belgium, Julie Ratas from Estonia, Alexis Tsipras from Greece, Youssef Chahed from Tunisia, Andrzej Duda from Poland, Matteo Renzi from Italy and John F Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt from the United States  World history makes WADA look ridiculous. They are ridiculous.   

The whole thing is a clear and obvious attempt by the WADA old farts to maintain their cushy number. If they are up to trying these sorts of tricks inside their own organisation, can they be trusted to police the sordid world of state-sponsored doping? Of course they can’t.

But the rule changes do not stop at those two beauties. There is a third proposal. This is how that rule change is described by Swimvortex.

We understand that the proposed code of conduct rules to be presented at WADA’s Board Meeting in Baku require Presidential candidates to exercise self-restraint when speaking to media, including on social media, and to also conduct their campaigns with dignity and moderation.

While we all want debate surrounding the future of the WADA-led anti-doping system to be dignified, we believe that this rule – which is wholly subjective and open to interpretation – would essentially “muzzle” candidates that hold different views and positions than the WADA status quo. This change, combined with the suggestion that candidates should be “restrained” with media – including, oddly, on social media – appears to be a clear and blatant attempt to stifle free-speech, or opinions that may differ from the current WADA leadership, and interestingly, comes at a time when the world is calling out for radical change from the WADA status quo.

I would imagine most of us, reading that, would be disturbed at the effort to curb free speech. However autocrats, interested in protecting their patch do this sort of thing all the time. Trump calls free and open discussion “the enemy of the people”. So it seems does WADA. Swimming New Zealand already includes two WADA style rules in their Code of Conduct that say:

“To not provide comment to any media on behalf of Swimming New Zealand.

To not speak to any media in a negative way regarding Swimming New Zealand.”

Both rules are ridiculous and probably illegal. If Dave Gerrard has, in anyway, been involved in similar rule changes in WADA he has no place in being President of Swimming New Zealand. If he has been silent about rule changes, that are clearly a desperate effort to cling onto power, he should leave sport in New Zealand to others. Several recent Swimwatch posts have discussed corruption in New Zealand sport. The chaos at WADA has a direct affect on New Zealand sport. Dave Gerrard could be bringing the corruption of the international organisation far too close to New Zealand for my liking.

Top Swimming Administrator Under Suspicion

November 5th, 2018

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is in trouble. Among many allegations WADA is accused of being complicit in hiding two positive EPO tests returned by Russian swimmers. In addition two top officials at the anti-doping laboratory in Bucharest have been removed from their posts after it was found that they covered up positive samples. WADA is also under huge pressure for their decision to readmit Russian cheats. The noose of honesty is tightening around the neck of the WADA organisation. It seems the calls for justice and reform have merit. WADA has not performed well. It has not protected the welfare of clean athletes. WADA has cozied up to Putin and excused his unforgivable rule over Russian cheating. WADA’s stewardship has been deficient and negligent.

And sitting squarely in the center of the WADA mess is a top New Zealand swimming official, Dr Dave Gerrard. Gerrard is the current President of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Since 2013 he has also chaired the WADA Therapeutic Use Exemptions Committee.

I guess the important question is – can sport in New Zealand afford to have someone involved at a high level in an organisation that has covered up and sanctioned drug cheating also act as President of a leading national sport? Gerrard occupies a senior position in an organisation, WADA, which is accused of turning a blind eye to Russian swimmers who use EPO and compete against New Zealand swimmers. Gerrard, by association, is involved in WADA policies that have hurt New Zealand swimming. Whether Gerrard is innocent or guilty, complicit or blameless does not really matter. The smell of corruption taints everyone. It especially affects the senior officials involved – and that is D. Dave Gerrard.

Gerrard should know that suspicion is the reality of his position in WADA. Gerrard is toxic because WADA is being investigated for failing to protect clean athletes, not because Gerrard is necessarily guilty, but because of his association with corruption. Gerrard must know that.

Any decent human being, in Gerrard’s position, would want to protect sport in New Zealand. While WADA is charged with malfeasance, Gerrard should want to make sure SNZ is not contaminated by WADA’s problems. Gerrard has a duty to SNZ to resign from his position as SNZ President. He should also be done with being Chairman of the WADA Committee. If he is innocent, his guilt by association is especially sad. But that’s life. There is a price to be paid for acting as Chairman of a senior WADA committee for five years while very bad drug decisions were being made. WADA behaved badly while Gerrard was at the center of WADA power. He shares responsibility for a series of bad WADA decisions. The price should be his resignation from WADA and the SNZ Presidency.

Justice and good behavior demand no less. I would be appalled if Gerrard held on to both positions because of the perks and power they offer. I don’t know all the trappings that go with the WADA Chairmanship. I’ve heard talk of business class airfares, five star hotels and allowances of $500 a day. But just as seductive is the ego massage that goes with being a SNZ President and a WADA Committee Chairman. Gerrard has shown that he enjoys the status of being a senior administrator.

Now he is finding out there is more than status involved. There is the price of responsibility. Responsibility to the organisation and responsibility to its members. Every swimmer in New Zealand deserves to see Gerrard stand down from being President of SNZ. Imagine the cleansing effect on us all of seeing Gerrard announce on the SNZ website that he is absolutely innocent but, while the problems at WADA are being sorted out, he is standing down from the Presidency of SNZ. Young swimmers would be inspired. An administrator had acted honorably; had acted in the interests of the members. A senior official had shown New Zealand swimming and world sport that he cares.

Sadly I do not think Gerrard is capable of that gesture. My feeling is that he will cling to power. He will loudly proclaim his innocence. He will denounce critics as wrong and as trouble makers.

Already critics seeking to reform WADA are being referred to by WADA’s governance as representing a “small, politically motivated group of detractors” who again, according to WADA, are “attempting to destabilize the global anti-doping program by criticizing WADA”. The WADA Director General claimed that the number of reformers worldwide has “done nothing for this crisis”. According to him any positive suggestion for reform “undermines WADA”.

I have little doubt that Gerrard will follow the lead of his international mates. His natural wish will be bolstered by the New Zealand sport and swimming establishment. Those around him, people like Miskimmin, Cotterill and Johns will support his decision to hang on to power. They will do that because that’s the sort of people they are. The retention of power and position is more important than doing the right thing. Power is more important than the welfare of their members or their sport.

So there it is. Will Gerrard do the right thing or will he focus on holding onto power? It is impossible to do both. While WADA is being investigated the choices are clear. They are stark. They are black and white. I wonder which way Gerrard will jump. Is he really a person committed to his sport or to himself? We are about to find out.

See Evil, Hear Evil, Speak Evil

November 4th, 2018

Two previous Swimwatch posts have discussed corruption in New Zealand sport. Both have been posted online and sent as submissions to Sport NZ’s integrity survey. In the submissions we have argued that ethical problems in New Zealand sport begin at the top. We have highlighted constitutional conditions that have been manipulated in order to provide Peter Miskimmin, the CEO of Sport NZ, with dictatorial powers.

Peter Miskimmin will not like the submissions. He is not interested in discussing corruption at the top of New Zealand sport. What he wants is to hear about a coach who drinks beer on a European tour or a coach who pushes half a dozen hockey players to work harder or a tough rowing coach who takes no prisoners or a soccer coach who insists on tactics that his players don’t like. Like all bullies Miskimmin is looking to deflect blame onto the weak. But that page three of the Sun gossip is trivial compared to the threat posed by Miskimmin’s bad behaviour. Coaches and managers affect a few players. Miskimmin’s behaviour infects the whole of New Zealand sport.

A disregard of ethical behaviour at the top sets an environment where anything goes. If the guy at the top cheats, what’s wrong with following his example? If the guy at the top lies, why shouldn’t we lie too? And that is what has happened. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) and other NSOs diligently follow Miskimmin’s example. The balance of this report will discuss three examples of bad behaviour. I will call them see evil, hear evil and speak evil.

See Evil

The most blatant case of the athlete abuse occurs in the area of pay. Miskimmin has created a structure that rewards bureaucrats at the expense of athletes. I will use Dame Valerie Adams as an example. But the principle of master and slave occurs across New Zealand sport. It is classic abuse.

Adams has won two Olympic Gold Medals, one Olympic Bronze Medal, eight World Championships, three Commonwealth Games Gold Medals and two Commonwealth Games Silver Medals. It would be hard to find a record better than hers in any sport, anywhere in the world. Her reward from Peter Miskimmin is $60,000 a year.

You may think that’s not too bad, but compare Adams $60,000 to the Sport NZ employees sitting in offices, drinking coffee, living off the efforts of Adams and Walsh out in the “cotton fields”. Miskimmin pays himself $400,000; a value seven times greater than Valerie Adams. But it gets far worse than that. Below Miskimmin, Sport NZ employs another 60 minions who are each paid more than twice what Valerie Adams receives. But it does not stop there. In addition to the 61 staff paid multiple times more than Adams, another 29 staff are paid at least 60% more than the worlds most decorated athlete.

If anyone can explain to me how that is not exploitation, I’d like to hear it. Ninety staff in a small government sports department are paid many times more than Valerie Adams. It is rotten to the core. Those ninety staff cost New Zealand sport about $11.5 million a year – the cost of 190 Valerie Adams.

It is wrong. It is exploitation. It is corrupt. And it begins at the top.

Hear Evil

But it is not only in pay that the master-slave relationship in New Zealand sport appears. SNZ bureaucrats are also looking after themselves big time. The CEO Steve Johns flies to Japan to attend a meeting that could have easily been done on Skype. I bet there was no user-pays in that junket. I’d love to know if he flew business class and whether his trip included the perk of the Air New Zealand First Class lounge. Gary Francis is off to China for the World Short Course Championships in a month. There is absolutely no reason for him to be going to that meet. He is a surplus hanger-on. But his airfare is being fully funded by SNZ. No user-pays when it comes to the Antares Place gang.

Not only that. The fare being paid by SNZ is a thousand dollars per person more than it should be because Francis and his administration mates won’t fly in a Chinese airline.

Now compare that to the sixteen swimmers who are going to China to represent New Zealand. They each have to find $5,300 to pay their own way. They have to personally pay $1,000 extra to fly on Air New Zealand because Francis and his mates don’t like Chinese airplanes. They have to get money from family and friends in order to keep Francis and Johns in a job. Emma Godwin showed surprising initiative by opening a “Give-a-Little” page. What that means is the public are being expected to do what Francis and Johns are not.

It is wrong. It is exploitation. It is corrupt. And it begins at the top.

Speak Evil

I have mentioned before the dispute I am currently having with SNZ. Sometime ago a disgruntled swimmer complained about my coaching. Her complaint included some pretty vile accusations. SNZ decided an investigation was necessary and employed a criminal psychotherapist to conduct hearings. Prior to attending the hearings I was assured, by the CEO of SNZ, that I would receive a copy of the Report.

The hearings lasted three days. I think I was able to convince the investigator that the accusations were a load of lies. I was told a Report would be prepared and sent to SNZ. After that I waited and waited to receive my copy. It never came. Finally I asked SNZ for a copy. Steve Johns refused my request. I filed a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner and that is where the matter lies today. We will shortly hear what the Privacy Commissioner makes of an accused not being allowed to read the result of his trial. We will see what the Privacy Commissioner makes of promises made and not kept.

Without question the SNZ disregard for justice, their contempt for the rights of their members and their stunning self-importance have their source at the highest levels of New Zealand sport. Steve Johns’ arrogant refusal to comply with the most basic human right and his wilful disregard for a promise made are classic consequences of the environment created in New Zealand sport. They reflect badly on the character of the individuals involved.

It is wrong. It is exploitation. It is corrupt. And it begins at the top.

While the gossip about coaches drinking and yelling at athletes may have more appeal to those who inhabit the gutter, the things we have spoken about here are more relevant and important. Any grass roots reform will require a clean-out at the top.

Miskimmin’s Dictatorship

November 2nd, 2018

The first Swimwatch submission to Sport NZ made the point that the toxic culture of sport in New Zealand had its origin at the top. Sport NZ was and is responsible for New Zealand’s sporting environment. Miskimmin’s policies have encouraged and do not punish appalling behaviour. The Swimwatch submission gave examples of the corruption that has followed: Olympic champions being tragically undervalued while bureaucrats take home multi-hundreds of thousands of dollars; executives flying for free while athletes stand at sausage sizzles and rely on “Give-a-Little” donations to raise the money to get themselves to a World Championship; and basic rules of justice being ignored.

We argued that corruption was the product of Miskimmin’s dictatorship. We said power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We recommended that Miskimmin should be sacked and the cleansing power of democracy should be brought back into the management of sport.

What the Swimwatch post did not do was justify the claim that sport in New Zealand was a Miskimmin dictatorship. We did not prove that Miskimmin has done more than use the Government’s money to inflict dictatorial control. He has imposed structural decrees that consolidate and centralise his power. Make no mistake, power in New Zealand sport is as centralised and as dictatorial as it ever was in Castro’s Cuba or Papa Doc’s Haiti.

Can we prove that? How has he done it? Let’s use Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) as an example. Some of this constitutional stuff is quite boring but it is critical to understanding the noxious culture of sport in New Zealand.

In 2011, against our advice, Brian Palmer and Bronwyn Radford reached an agreement with Peter Miskimmin that Sport NZ could write a new SNZ constitution. Effectively that decision sold swimming down the drain. A generation of swimmers have paid a terrible price for that decision. The harm is being felt as acutely today as it was seven years ago.

In 2012 a SNZ Special General Meeting approved the new Constitution. Miskimmin’s grab for power was complete. So, what is in the new Constitution that turned SNZ from a democratic organisation into a centralised dictatorship? This is the tedious constitutional stuff but it is critical to understanding why swimming has struggled to find international champions, why its membership drops every year and why it has been stripped of government funding.

The answers can be found in Section Four of the SNZ Constitution, titled “Governance”. Section Four sets out how those who run SNZ are selected. It answers the question of who will be in power. Who controls SNZ?

Section Four vests control for the day-to-day operation of SNZ in the Board. But the Board is controlled by a higher authority called the Appointments Panel. Ultimate power in SNZ lies in the Appointments Panel. The Panel of five members can decide who should be appointed to the Board, who can stand for election to the Board and how long Board members can remain on the Board. This relationship is vital to understanding how Miskimmin’s dictatorship works. Whoever controls the Appointments Panel controls SNZ. Here is how it works.

The five members of the Appointments Panel are selected as follows.

1.    Two appointed members, one of whom will be the Chairman, are selected by Sport NZ – that’s Peter Miskimmin.

2.    One member is then chosen by the two appointed members. That effectively means Miskimmin has chosen a third member. His three minions now control the Appointments Panel.

3.    Two members are elected by the Regions but only after their names have been approved by the three appointed members of the Panel. In other words the election is rigged so that Miskimmin can control who can stand for election and therefore who can be elected.

As you can see Miskimmin choses two. Those two chose a third. Then the three approve the names of anyone standing for election by the SNZ Regions. That means Peter Miskimmin controls who is on the Appointments Panel. His mates are guaranteed a place.

So how does that control affect the day-to-day Board of SNZ? Here is how that works. The Board has six members. Here is how the six are selected.

1.    Three are members appointed by the Appointments Panel. So Miskimmin’s mates get to name three of the six Board members.

2.    The other three are elected by the Regions. But in case you thought that might be democratic there are rules that govern the election. Only three candidates can stand in the election. Every candidate has to have their name approved by the Appointments Panel – as we have seen that means Peter Miskimmin.

It is impossible to imagine a more undemocratic process. Miskimmin controls the Appointments Panel. The Appointments Panel controls membership of the Board. All that means is Miskimmin controls the Board. The title of this post, “Miskimmin’s Dictatorship” is entirely justified. Earlier in this submission I compared Miskimmin’s control to Cuba and Haiti. I suspect Castro and Papa Doc would have the utmost admiration for Miskimmin’s model. Miskimmin has devised a third world dictatorship plan and imposed it on SNZ. It is truly disgusting.

For six years this dictatorship has controlled SNZ. In that time the sport has lost a host of members, has not won a medal at an Olympic Games and is a leaderless shambles. The dictatorship model has not worked, will not work and has caused endless pain. Band aids like new coaches, the appointment of Gary Francis and the sacking of Hurring and Bouzaid have been tried. But anything the management do will fail because of the fundamental corruption of Miskimmin’s dictatorial structure.

It is the ultimate irony that, for six years Miskimmin has had total control over SNZ. And yet in that six years SNZ has piled failure upon failure. By almost every measure SNZ has performed poorly and even illegally. They have lied and cheated at almost every turn. And what does Miskimmin do. He strips the sport of funding. Can you imagine that – Miskimmin controls the sport but strips it of money when it under-performs. No thought is given to the fact that the blame for the six years of failure lies with him. No thought of punishing himself.

Oh no, for Miskimmin it’s all about taking all the power and none of the responsibility. The cancer of corruption at the head has spread and infected the entire body.

Corrupt Integrity

October 31st, 2018

The saddest and funniest thing I’ve seen in sport recently is the Sport NZ promotion of a survey into sporting integrity. No one at Sport NZ seems to understand that Sport NZ is the integrity problem. There is no point in Sport NZ examining the ethics of sport when the problems of integrity are caused by them. Miskimmin and his mates in NSOs and HPSNZ are the problem. They have created the environment where New Zealand currently has investigations into half a dozen sports. The blame for the chaos lies inside Sport NZ, squarely at the door of Peter Miskimmin.

This survey is simply an effort to distract attention; to force our focus away from Sport NZ and onto everyone else. In particular Miskimmin is desperate to force our concentration downwards to the grass roots of New Zealand sport. The last thing he wants is for his role in the current chaos to become the central subject of investigation. However, as is often the case, corruption begins at the top. The top creates the environment that causes corruption to flourish. In New Zealand that has certainly been the case. Sadly, it is probably true that Miskimmin will succeed in deflecting attention away from himself and will use the survey to further his personal empire. That in itself is corruption.

But let’s try our best to make his plan more difficult. Let’s try and make him more honest. Let’s consider his integrity.

Before completing Miskimmin’s survey Sport NZ encourage us to read the “Sport  Integrity  Review  Discussion Document”. That is not as easy as it sounds. There are 111 pages of Miskimmin propaganda. It is not possible to discuss every manipulation included to distract and bias participants about to complete the survey. Instead I will discuss only one of the document’s many distortions.

On page 11 Miskimmin makes the following assertion:

Volunteers can have the following implications:

1.    As staff are not paid, sport organisations often focus on the core business of delivering sport. Allocating time to other matters, including integrity matters, is difficult when volunteer sports officials or administrators are balancing day jobs, family commitments and other obligations.

2.    Given the voluntary nature of some positions, it may be difficult for sport organisations to attract volunteers with appropriate skills and experience.

3.    While volunteers do not earn money, they may earn trust and gratitude from the club. Over time, this can manifest in the form of decreased scrutiny which can potentially lead to sport integrity breaches. Volunteers can feel a sense of entitlement which can manifest as a belief that they deserve benefits.

4.    Legislation pertaining to “employees” may not always be applicable to volunteers in sport organisations. This means that protections and processes available to employees may not be available to volunteers or members of a sport organisation.

I have seldom been as incensed as I am about the implications of that claim. When I think of the army of volunteers who managed the affairs of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) honestly and long before Miskimmin came to power, this slur on them is disgusting. Women like Beth Meade, Norma Williams and Joe Draisey and men like Noel Smith, Ron Shakespeare and Artie Shaw ran the affairs of swimming with more integrity and honesty than the overpaid fat-cats we have today.

But it is not only those who are no longer here that are being insulted by Miskimmin’s implied accusations. Just consider where Counties-Manukau Swimming would be without Jeannie and Jeff Sibun. Miskimmin would probably consider them to be a bit old-fashioned. But remember this, they run an honest and caring ship that includes several of New Zealand’s best swimmers. And there are a hundred like the Sibuns who do not deserve the insults contained in Miskimmin’s Review.

But the reason Miskimmin wants us to focus on his lists of deficiencies in volunteers is because he knows the failings in sport begin and end at his door. Page 12 of his Review almost admits to his failures. This is what it says:

Those who have power, authority and the ability to influence also play an important role in setting the culture of the organisation.

Well, Peter Miskimmin, no one in New Zealand sport has more “power, authority and ability to influence” than you. As far as I can tell that means you are responsible for “setting the culture of the organisation”. Its failings are down to you. The buck stops with you.

But I guess it is not enough to say that Miskimmin is responsible for the shortcomings in New Zealand sport. If New Zealand sport is less honest and, in swimming, less successful than when the men and women I have mentioned were running the show, why is that the case? The reason is two words, both down to Miskimmin – centralisation and power.

Almost everyone has heard the Lord Acton expression, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. What Miskimmin has done is pander to that base instinct. In swimming, Miskimmin used the 2012 Constitutional change to strip SNZ of its democratic institutions, he centralised power in a largely appointed Board, he encouraged the appointment of highly paid bureaucrats like himself and he arranged for New Zealand’s best swimmers to be herded into a SNZ swim school in Auckland.

In swimming Miskimmin concentrated power into the hands of overpaid bureaucrats. To a greater or lesser extent he has done the same thing in dozens of other sports. And the price, as Lord Acton predicted, is absolute corruption.

What else would you call Miskimmin’s pay of $400,000 and Johns $150,000 compared to Valerie Adams $60,000 for an Olympic Gold Medal? What else would you call Johns and Francis flying around the world for free when Hunter and Godwin have to pay for themselves? What else would you call me being denied access to the report on the investigation into my coaching? The list of Miskimmin sourced corruption is very long.

So what is the answer? That’s easy. Sack Miskimmin and bring back democracy. After the dark clouds of Miskimmin’s autocratic rule have passed there will be a cleansing quality in the smell of fresh, democratic air. I can’t wait.