OMG – WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?

November 27th, 2021

Before you read this Swimwatch post there are two qualifications you should know about.

First, I voted Labour in the last two elections and will do so again in a year’s time. This post is not political.

Second, the correspondence you are about to read comes from double Olympic Gold medalist, Alan Thompson. It is a credible source.

There are also three arguments I am about to address.

First, that Hon. Grant Robertson for over a year has been told that Sport New Zealand (SNZ) and High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) were not fit for purpose.

Second, that Grant Robertson was warned over a year before Olivia Podmore died that her death was going to occur.

Third, that Grant Robertson did nothing. SNZ and HPSNZ continue as they did before, and Olivia Podmore was allowed to die.  

SNZ and HPNZ not fit for purpose

In an email dated Wednesday, 5 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

I implore you as the Minister of Sport to remove HPSNZ and SNZ from any inquiries or investigations. The process must be conducted by a fully independent person or commission if it is going to have any credibility. I agree with David Howman who stressed this two days ago. Sport New Zealand has had a culture of ‘they know best’ and have bullied NSOs for years.

In an email dated Thursday, 13 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

You are asking that I as a parent along with many athletes put faith in SNZ to make their complaints of abuse to the ICM when Sport New Zealand may be complicit in this abuse and definitely HPSNZ is. How (has) sport in NZ got to such a low that allows the systematic abuse of its athletes. They do not and will not trust HPSNZ as they have been repeatedly let down by them. The athletes I know do not trust anything associated with SNZ. Sport New Zealand is a very big part of the problem and may be complicit in this abuse.

In an email dated Monday, 31 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

The Athletes Federation is not representative of sports people in this country. when one takes a closer look you may find Mr Rob Nicol has a close friendship or association with Mr Gordon Walker from CRNZ, the Athletes Federation has in the past acted as an agent or on behalf of the CEO of CRNZ Mr Tom Ashley, the CEO of the Federation I believe is possibly Ms Carrington’s manager. You can draw your own conclusions.

In an email dated Monday, 31 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

Sport NZ has a ‘dirty puppeteer’s finger’ in most NSOs pulling and manipulating all processes and directions for its own ends. The parents and these young women want a Royal Commission of Enquiry put in place so they can tell their stories and also point out how dishonest the NSOs and HPSNZ are, in addition they want to make recommendations that protect the integrity of sport in NZ and protect future sports people.

In an email dated Monday, 12 October 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

What I would like to see is a Commission of Enquiry and all those abusers and those complicit gone. The reason I wanted a Commission of Enquiry was because this has been going on for years because of the power exerted by Sport NZ and HPSNZ.

In an email dated Monday, 21 December 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

I ask you to use your influence through Sport NZ to demand the resignation of CRNZ’s Board, CRNZ’s Board has failed to take due care of its members and has failed in all aspects of health and safety, it has failed control its employees. I know that the CEO and Coaches of CRNZ have rights under Employment Law but when someone of your calibre says they have grave concerns about their performance or have no confidence in them, this would or should make them resign.

Hon. Grant Robertson was told about Olivia Podmore’s death

In an email dated Thursday, 13 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

You are asking that I as a parent along with many athletes put faith in SNZ to make their complaints of abuse to the ICM when Sport New Zealand may be complicit in this abuse and definitely HPSNZ is. Sport New Zealand is a very big part of the problem.

In an email dated Monday, 31 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

It will only be a matter of time before some parent gets the knock on the door from the Police. I leave it for you to act hopefully in haste.

In an email dated Monday, 31 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

Some of these young women have already just about paid the price with their lives. This cannot happen and should never happen, vested interests that discard young sports people like altar boys and girls in the catholic church cannot pervade NZ Sport.

In an email dated Monday, 31 August 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

One parent yesterday told me that ‘we are very lucky to still have two of these young women’. CRNZ and HPSNZ yesterday openly lied about when they knew about what was happening and the action they have taken. This Sir we can prove beyond all reasonable doubt both with email trails and eye witnessIn

In an email dated Monday, 21 December 2020 Grant Robertson was told this:

HPSNZ knew full well about the toxic culture that existed in Canoe racing NZ and HPSNZ chose to ignore it. ‘Medals over ethics and morality, medals over lives’- what an indictment of NZ Sport.

In an email dated Monday, 3 May 2021 Grant Robertson was told this:

Today another young women has left one of Canoe Racing NZ HP Women’s squads because of a nervous breakdown, anxiety and depression. My count stands at 7 young women who I know who’s lives have in some cases just about been destroyed, yet nothing has changed. Obviously Sport NZ, HPSNZ and those they are responsible to only care about not upsetting the apple cart and medals are more important that lives. Some of the young women that stood up and spoke out are still being physically and mentally intimidated.

Conclusion

What a chilling email. Sixteen months ago, Hon. Grant Robertson was told by a double Olympic Gold Medallist. “It will only be a matter of time before some parent gets the knock on the door from the Police.

It is too late for Grant Robertson to act now. Olivia Podmore’s mother has had “the knock on the door from the Police.” Her daughter is dead. Grant Robertson was told and did nothing. He was in a position to save that girl’s life and left her to die.

But it is not too late for him to save others. Here is what The Minister of Sport needs to do.

  1. Close down the Canoeing SGM that is clearly a vendetta aimed at Alan Thompson for telling the truth to a Minister of the Crown.
  2. Encourage the Police to get fully involved in the Podmore inquiry.
  3. Widen the Police investigation to include:
  4. consideration of the charge of murder
  5. The role SNZ and HPSNZ played in Podmore’s death
  6. Payment to the lawyers involved in the current Podmore inquiry should be taken over by the Government – not SNZ or HPSNZ.
  7. Widen the current Podmore inquiry to include a SNZ and HPSNZ restructure aimed at preventing the moral corruption that has recently characterised both organisations.
  8. Replace Raelene Castle as CEO of both agencies.   

WHAT IS IT THE MEDIA DON’T UNDERSTAND?

November 26th, 2021

Here we go again. Another good guy being hung out to dry by overpaid self-important fat cats in New Zealand’s sporting Head Office. What is it the media don’t understand? It is not actually those that manage the sports that are to blame. It is Sport New Zealand’s money and the influence of Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) bureaucrats that are destroying the moral fabric of sport.

This website has said many times – the buck stops with Raelene Castle and, before her, Peter Miskimmin.

Everything either of them touch turns to custard. Three of the biggest recipients of their charity have been Rowing ($5.1million in 2020), Cycling ($4.4million in 2020) and Canoe Racing ($1.9million in 2020). Think about that for a second. In one year, Castle handed over $11.4million to three sports. And what did Castle get for her flippant waste of our money – because its source is our taxes. How’s this for a list.

Cycling

A toxic environment that probably caused the death of Olivia Podmore.

The resignation of their Head Coach, their CEO, their High Performance Director and their Sprint Coach. I used to think swimming was bad with 13 Head Coaches in 15 years. That was before I watched the chaos Castle and her money were about to unleash on Cycling. Would the last person leaving the velodrome that Castle built please turn out the lights?

Payment of what looks like a $20,000 bribe to buy Podmore’s silence. If that, as it appears to be, is true, it is the behaviour we expect out of Somalia, South Sudan and Syria. But no, in this case the ironically named Grassroots Trust Velodrome, in leafy Cambridge, was the drop-off point for Sport New Zealand’s hush money.

Yet another inquiry. They say the only ones getting rich out of all this are inquiry lawyers. That is not entirely true. Castle isn’t on fish-n-chip dinners yet. But the lawyers must be loving this chaos.

Well done Castle – one death, four resignations, an alleged bribe and two inquiries. Seems like a good way to run a sport’s team. And all it cost was $4.4million a year.

Rowing

Compared to cycling, rowing has been fairly quiet recently. They haven’t been caught threatening New Zealanders who dare to use their sport to pay for an American University education. I have not even heard of rowing banning from selection any female rower who wants to spend some time working in Europe for the IOC. Even the almost annual inquiries into charity’s fraud or false grant applications seem to have slowed down.

Like all castles, Castles rowing’s real strength is losing their best staff. They even lost Dick Tonks who had been coaching rowing in NZ for 20 years. His rowers won more medals than any other coach in the sport’s history. But he couldn’t stand Sport New Zealand and went off to coach in Canada.         

Canoe Racing

Even Canoe Racing NZ has not found a repellent to ward off the Castle scourge. Their latest scandal involves a concerted effort to expel double Olympic Gold Medallist, Alan Thompson. Canoeing is holding a SGM in December to see if they can get New Zealand’s 16 canoe clubs to throw Thompson out of the sport.

I don’t know Alan Thompson. But I come from Gisborne and know many guys who do know him. Alan and I also swam for the same swimming club and for the same coach. These are people whose views I respect. Respect a lot more than Castle.

Sure, Alan is old school. So am I. So was Tonks. So was Lydiard. So was Laing. But that canoeing stuff about a “safe environment for all athletes that participate in canoe racing and CRNZ activities”.as though Alan Thompson was an East Coast Ted Bundy is a straight out CRNZ vendetta.

For years Alan Thompson has called out bureaucratic waste. For years he has been an anti-establishment voice. But I tell you what, Podmore would not have died under Alan Thompson’s watch. She did die when Castle was in charge. It would pay the 16 canoeing clubs in New Zealand to remember that and vote to keep one of New Zealand’s good guys in their sport.

If Canoe Racing NZ can get rid of Alan Thompson when he calls them to account, will anybody ever be able to voice their concerns without Sport New Zealand paying whatever it takes to silence a critic.

The canoeing clubs should also be aware that the QC who investigated Alan, Victoria Casey, says on her website, “Independent investigation on instructions from the High Performance Sport NZ”. In my opinion she clearly has no idea what she is talking about. Any investigation “on instructions from the High Performance Sport NZ” is NOT by definition independent. HPSNZ paid Canoe Racing NZ $1.9million last year. In my opinion it is far more likely that HPSNZ hired Victoria Casey to look after their interests and like a well-trained puppy-dog that is what she has done. Sport New Zealand and Canoe Racing NZ wanted to get rid of a troublemaker and paid Casey to provide the bullets for their firing squad.

It is another set-up just like the Podmore $20,000 was a set-up. I just hope there are at least nine decent canoe clubs in New Zealand who recognize graft when they see it and keep one of their more valuable assets in the canoeing fold.

PS – I have a daughter who swam for New Zealand. If I was unable to go on an overseas trip with her, there was only one person I would trust to take her away – Duncan Laing. You can add a second name to that list – Alan Thompson.

TOO HOT IN THE KITCHEN

November 24th, 2021

Cycling New Zealand (CNZ) has announced that its CEO, Jacques Landry, has resigned. He will return to his native Canada at the end of the year. In my view, this must not be allowed to happen. Oh, he can resign all right. No problem there. But skipping the country. No, that must not be allowed.

Why? Because in my opinion Landry and others face the prospect of criminal charges in relation to the death of Olivia Podmore. I am not calling her death suicide any longer because in my view it was culpable homicide. Here are the events that, if correct, would form the case against those responsible in CNZ and Sport New Zealand.

  1. Olivia had knowledge of a relationship between the National Cycling Coach and a female athlete.
  2. CNZ demanded that she participate in a cover-up of the relationship.
  3. Olivia was required to lie to protect CNZ.
  4. There was an implied threat to Olivia’s financial and sporting life.
  5. Olivia compromised her honesty and self-esteem and participated in the CNZ cover-up.
  6. Sport New Zealand paid Olivia an additional $20,000 after the inquiry for “welfare reasons”. A cynic might ask – whose welfare?  
  7. CNZ refused to select Olivia for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
  8. Olivia was found dead at home on 9 August 2021.

That series of alleged events requires answers in a Court of Law by those responsible for Sport New Zealand and CNZ. Included among those is the current CEO, Jacques Landry.

Culpable homicide is described in the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961, Section 60. It “consists in the killing of any person by causing that person by threats or by deception, to do an act which causes his or her death.”

While the circumstances of Olivia’s death remain under investigation by the Coroner and the Special CNZ Panel, Landry should not be allowed to leave New Zealand. He became CEO of CNZ in 2018, one year after Olivia had been asked to lie in the CNZ cover-up. His organisation allowed her participation in the CNZ centralised training programme to be used to obtain her compliance with the cover-up. Was he the CEO of CNZ when Olivia was paid the $20,000? He was CEO of CNZ when she was not named on the Tokyo Olympic team. He was CEO when she died. In my view he was at least an accessory to these events.   

To my untrained eye the actions that led to Olivia’s death certainly look like culpable homicide. In simple terms the pressures she had to endure killed her just as surely as if someone had stood outside her home with a rifle. And Landry was the CEO shortly after or during it all. Landry should not skip the country without answering questions in a Court of Law about his actions. For example.

  1. When did he have knowledge of a relationship between the National Cycling Coach and a female athlete? What did he know and when did he know it?
  2. When was he aware that Olivia had been asked to participate in a cover-up of the relationship?
  3. When was he aware that Olivia had been required to lie to protect CNZ?
  4. Was he aware that there was an implied threat to Olivia’s financial and sporting life in the CNZ cover-up?
  5. Was he aware that Olivia had compromised her honesty and self-esteem in order to participate in the CNZ cover-up?
  6. Did he have any involvement in the Sport New Zealand “welfare” payment of $20,000 after the inquiry? Was this money Olivia’s payoff for her part in the CNZ cover-up scheme?   
  7. What was his involvement in CNZ’s refusal to select Olivia for the Tokyo Olympic Games? What did he know and when did he know it?

I have no idea how to avoid Landry skipping the country. The circumstances described here demand that Landry be prevented from spending Christmas tucked up in Canada safe from his actions at CNZ being examined by New Zealand justice.

A particularly poignant saying about events like this is that bad people get away with bad things when good people do nothing. Do you think that might be what we have here? If we have, it is clearly up to someone to take a stand. If the extreme pressure Olivia was put under by CNZ and Sport New Zealand’s money made this a possible case of culpable homicide, then those responsible and/or associated with these events in any way, no matter how distant, should answer for their actions. Olivia Podmore deserves no less. I know this is true from my own experience with an NSO.

BORDERING ON ILLITERATE

November 24th, 2021

Occasionally I read the weekly column written by Mike Hosking. I am not a great fan. Hosking’s views are too right wing for my taste. But the real turn off is his rubbish standard of English. It is beyond belief that he gets paid to churn out prose that my seven-year-old grandson would reject.

I notice Hosking’s Wikipedia page makes proud mention that Hosking left school when he was 16. I can believe that. Clearly his high school had taught him all they could.

On Tuesday Hosking wrote 400 words on opening New Zealand’s international border. Lists of his poor writing probably make for dull reading. However, bear with me. Here are several gems.

  1. In the first five lines the words “think” or “thought” are repeated five times. They say one measure of IQ is the frequency of repetition required for learning to take place. Clearly for Hosking that is quite a big number. Most of us got the idea we would have to think about the border the first time he said it. Hosking needs a reminder on every line.
  2. Central to Hosking’s argument is the damage New Zealand’s restricted border – Hosking calls it closed, but it is not – will have on students coming here for a university education. He says for example, “International education here was worth $5 billion a year” and “For Victoria and New South Wales, at least the planes arriving will soon be full of students”. His point is students filling our universities and paying fees is what New Zealand needs.

I would dearly love to know then why, a few lines after weeping tears about the lost students, Hosking decides to have a crack at the Prime Minister with this gem: “The theory, and this is the stuff you pick up when you spend half your life in university”. Oh dear, educating foreigners is fine. But for God’s sake not for a New Zealand female Prime Minister. She should be at home doing dishes and making the bed. What a moron Hosking is.

  • The genius Hoking then asks this question, “How is it that Australia can open its borders and we can’t?” Here again IQ is not a Hosking strong suit. The answer is Australia has a Prime Minister who enjoys cheating on the French, cheating in sport and killing his own people. Accept that and of course you can open the borders. New Zealand so far has had seven COVID deaths per million people. Australia has had 76, ten times more. My guess is that a few more deaths in South Auckland would not worry Hosking. As long as the border allowed Hoking to drink gin and tonic on the Gold Coast who cares about a few extra tangi in New Zealand? Not Hosking it seems.   
  • Then our Aristotle of immigration policy asks: “How is it they’re [that’s Australia] inviting hundreds of thousands into the country to fire up the economy and we haven’t? This cannot be true. Surely Hosking is not holding up Australian immigration policy as a shining beacon that New Zealand should follow. Or being stupid, perhaps he is.

Has Hosking never heard of the “white Australia policy”? He probably has, but thinks it was a good idea. Does he want New Zealand to have our own Manus Island to copy Australia’s Pacific Solution. Australia might be inviting “hundreds of thousands” but remember when they could not find space for one woman, Suhayra Aden, and her two children, all three of whom were all or partly Australian. Normally I hate this expression but really, if Hosking is so besotted with Australian immigration, he should pack his bags and go there. A few months on Manus Island would do him the world of good. I would certainly prefer Suhayra Aden and her two children to Mike Hosking any day. I am sure they present less danger to New Zealand than a loudmouth radio announcer.

She probably writes better English as well.

HAVE YOU REACHED A VERDICT?

November 22nd, 2021

The previous Swimwatch post presented a case for the prosecution and a case for the defense in the Olivia Podmore suicide. Were Sport New Zealand and Cycling New Zealand (CNZ) guilty or innocent of aiding and abetting her death? Were their actions in breach of Section 179 of the Crimes Act 1961?

Each reader can, of course, make up their mind on that question. I have made a decision. I would vote – not guilty. And here is why.

Section 179 of the Crimes Act 1961 says,

179 Aiding and abetting suicide

Every one is liable to imprisonment who incites any person to commit suicide, if that person commits suicide in consequence thereof.

I feel Sport New Zealand and CNZ’s behaviour came close to being in breach of this law. However, they escape because Section 179 requires Sport New Zealand and CNZ to have the intent or the purpose that suicide would result from their behaviour. I do not believe that is the case. Sport New Zealand and CNZ should have seen the pressure they were applying to Olivia was incredibly dangerous. The fact they did not, is evidence of their blind arrogance and stupidity perhaps but not of an intent to cause suicide. And for that reason, my vote is not guilty.

However, not guilty on the charge of aiding and abetting suicide leaves the question – is there another law that does not require the same level of intent? Now remembering, I am not a lawyer, but I think there maybe another law that Sport New Zealand and CNZ’s need to answer – the law of Culpable Homicide. This is what that law says.

60 Culpable Homicide

Homicide is culpable when it consists in the killing of any person by causing that person by threats or by deception, to do an act which causes his or her death.

In my opinion, Sport New Zealand and CNZ committed this crime when they engaged in reckless conduct which created substantial jeopardy of severe trauma to Olivia Podmore. They got her involved in a nasty corporate cover-up. They forced her to lie by using an implied threat to her financial and sporting life. Under duress she went along with their demands. And then they failed to select her for the Tokyo Games. She gave them everything, including her good name, her self-esteem and her honour and Sport New Zealand and CNZ punished her for it.

Was that reckless conduct? It sure was. Reckless conduct is conduct that exhibits a disregard of foreseeable consequences to another (Olivia) from acts or omissions. Sport New Zealand and CNZ need not intentionally have caused the resulting harm to Olivia. The ultimate question is whether, under all the circumstances, the accused’s behaviour was sufficiently egregious that made it actually and imminently dangerous to Olivia’s rights and safety.

Too right, that is what they did. And so, with the provision of intent gone, the law of culpable homicide fits more easily with Olivia’s case. On that I would vote – guilty.

The purpose of this and the two previous Swimwatch posts is not for me to play lawyers. The purpose is to encourage real lawyers to look at the circumstances of Olivia’s death and determine whether a serious law has been broken. Lawyer or not, I find it difficult to believe that New Zealand does not have laws that protect us from the deception and dishonesty that caused Olivia’s death. For too long National Sporting Organisations have acted like petty dictatorships, free of any sanction for grievously bad behaviour.

It is surprising that an Olivia type tragedy has not happen before. Certainly swimming, canoeing and rowing have gone close. Olivia’s death made it a reality. Real lawyers must make case-law from her death. There has to be a “Harm Principle” law. There has to be a punishment. Athletes need protection. Crime, prosecution and punishment in a real Court are their best protection. We will see.

PS – The “Harm Principle” refers to a theory of crime that an action can be banned if it causes harm to someone.