Coulter Byrne Cameron

By David

Swimwatch readers will have realized by now that we think it’s time these three found something else to do. Swimming is clearly not their thing. It’s amusing to imagine the careers that might suit their talents. It’s about time Coulter spent more time on his banking job. Stints on the NZ Olympic Committee and Swimming NZ have failed to impress. I do hope he is really good at banking. Byrne could join Ringling Bros. as a lion tamer. A similar job in swimming hasn’t worked out but may be fine preparation for the easier circus version. I’m not sure what Cameron could do. I did hear Sky Sport was looking for a commentator capable of convincing New Zealand that WWE bouts are genuine combat.

But enough of that nonsense. It is true; the three of them have not worked out at Swimming New Zealand. Over the past few weeks Swimwatch has made the case that Coulter, Byrne and Cameron have failed on five accounts.

  1. Competitive membership numbers have collapsed during their tenure.
  2. For over a decade the sport’s elite performance has been dismal. During the Coulter, Byrne and Cameron tenure Swimming New Zealand has failed to win an Olympic medal of any description or break a world record.
  3. They have recklessly poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the power grab known as Project Vanguard.
  4. They have created a unique atmosphere of mistrust and fear. An ex-swimmer visiting the Millennium Institute recently, told me, “You know, I’m still scared of her.”
  5. And to get these outcomes they have spent ten million dollars of tax payer’s money.

We would like to add two further transgressions to this impressive charge sheet. The three accused are specialist in an endless line of spin. Jan Cameron just about got away with convincing New Zealand that the New Delhi Commonwealth Game’s result was a sporting triumph. That deception was exposed as spin. The sort of thing they are expert at was laid bare this weekend when the three of them held a High Performance Distance Training Camp. Swimming New Zealand ran a news item on their website announcing the camp. The item included the following description of the Millennium coach, Mark Regan.

“who also coached Denmark’s Lotte Friis to a Beijing Olympic medal in the 800m freestyle in his role as coach of the Danish national squad.”

That statement is deliberate dishonesty. Swimming New Zealand members are being conned, duped and deceived by their leaders. A casual Swimming New Zealand member reading that would be led to the conclusion, “We are lucky to have that guy Regan in New Zealand. He coached a Danish swimmer called Friis to an Olympic medal.” But he didn’t. That’s a lie. Lotte Friis was coached by a chap called Paul Wildeboer. I went to a conference in Florida where he spoke about the training program he used to prepare Lotte Friis for the Olympic Games and World Championships.

Swimming New Zealand has used the fact that Regan was the Danish National Coach and Friis was on the Danish National Team to convey the impression Regan coached the swimmer. They’ve covered themselves by adding the qualification “in his role as the coach of the Danish national squad.” But that just makes the deception worse. They knew what they were saying wasn’t right or honest but sought to make it technically correct by adding a esoteric qualification. That’s called dishonesty with intent.

I was coach of the Virgin Islands’ national team for two years. The best swimmer in the Virgin Islands was a chap called Josh Labon. He swam on a scholarship at the University of Georgia and competed in the Athens and Beijing Olympic Games. I would never include his career in my coaching Resume. Sure, Josh swam on the Virgin Islands’ national team but his coach was at the University of Georgia. Swimming New Zealand’s leaders appear to be less concerned with candour when it comes to their spin.

The next charge is the one I find the most personally offensive and illustrative of the character of the people currently involved in running Swimming New Zealand. In their Code of Conduct there are two terrible clauses. Here is what they say:

  1. To not speak to any media in a negative way regarding Swimming NZ Inc.
  2. Understand the possible consequences of breaching the SNZ Code of Conduct.

My disgust at the censorship of the first clause and the threat of the second probably stems from three years I spent studding political science and a lifetime I spent as the son of a WW2 veteran.

John Stuart Mill in his landmark text “On Liberty” (1859) made the following observation on censorship.

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Mill is right. It is unfortunate that Coulter, Byrne and Cameron appear to lack the understanding or education to appreciate the evil contained in their rules. The censorship they sponsor reflects the organization’s lack of confidence in itself. It is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime. If they don’t believe in the freedom of expression for people they despise, they don’t believe in it at all. If you want to understand the thought process that prompted their promotion of Project Vanguard you need look no further than the effort they have made to silence dissent. I’d happily bet next year’s wages that Byrne has looked at ways of expelling me from the organization. He can’t of course. I’m not a member. It’s unlikely I ever will be while those totalitarian rules prop up their oppression.

It is an overused argument, but in this case it’s true. In the 1940s my father lost an arm and an eye fighting a regime that would not tolerate dissent. My wife’s father worked his way through North Africa and Italy fighting the same tyranny. A friend’s father was shot down over France and spent four years in a prison camp defending the right of us all to openly criticise our leaders. Accepting Swimming New Zealand’s petty rules would be to ignore the opinion and the sacrifice of a generation. It would be a better decision if, in 2011, we paid our regional fees (about $25) but refused to pay the Swimming New Zealand portion (about $52) of the fee. That way Coulter, Byrne and Cameron may understand the revulsion a society like ours feels about their rules, their authoritarianism, their Project Vanguard and their performance.