Archive for December, 2021


Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

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.      


Monday, December 27th, 2021

I thought the end of another year might be a fun time to look at what a successful swimming career involves. I happen to be a bit of a fanatic when it comes to statistics. Stored away on this computer are training schedules that date back to 1990. The distances and speeds swum by a dozen national, or USA state champions, are all here somewhere. Alison’s career was before the days of computers. Her running data is stored in a blue folder and in old-fashioned things called books. The blue folder is covered in stickers from track meets in Berlin (where Alison set the NZ record for 1000 metres), the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, the 1979 World Cup in Montreal, a 1981 Great Britain national team meet in Norway, the Zurich International and the French Athletic Federation. Inside you will find letters from Coach Arch Jelley, Maria Hartman (the ex-boss of UK women’s athletics), Andy Norman (once boss of the athletic world, or so it seemed) and priceless sponsorship letters from Adidas.    

But enough of that, back to swimming. So, what is involved in the career of an international swimmer? A lot of hard work. Yes, we all know that. But what does “a lot of hard work” mean? Well, the information I have suggests the following. These are all actual numbers taken from the records of real swimmers who competed for their country.

In an 11-year career from joining a club’s junior squad at 11 or 12 years of age to retiring at 22 or 23, he or she will swim a total of 27,548 kilometres. That’s a swim from Auckland to London via Singapore, across the Atlantic and the United States to Los Angeles. It is also 1.1 million lengths of a 25m pool and about 13.2 million freestyle arm strokes. No wonder swimmers have strong shoulders and know the number of tiles on the bottom of their pool.

The average distance swum per week will vary between 23.86 kilometres in the early years to 66.47 kilometres a week as an international swimmer. Over their 11-year career they will average 53.28 kilometres a week, or 5.92 kilometres per training session. Their longest individual training session will be 10.1 kilometres and their shortest 1.0 kilometre.

But swimming does not only involve training. There are also races to be swum. I tend to set a low number of races. However, in an 11-year career an international swimmer will swim 633 races. Of the 633 races swum 252 (40%) will be in a personal best time. The most races I have set in a year is 198 and the lowest is 16. I swear some coaches are close to 633 races per swimmer by the end of a good weekend at the Hawkes Bay – Poverty Bay Championships. I remember one of my swimmers being criticised by an official for not swimming enough races. At the next provincial championships, I entered the swimmer in every race, in every stroke and every distance. With the exception of one, I think it was the 200 fly, she won them all.

In addition to swimming, top swimmers spend time in the gym. In an 11-year career an international swimmer will do weights 1,522 times, an average of 2.94 gym sessions per week. In that time, they will lift 7,914 tonnes, do 858,500 sit-ups, 51,480 full push-ups and 13,728 chin-ups. 7,914 tonnes, by the way, is 20 A380 aircraft or 2 African elephants a week.

And finally, an 11-year career is a 5.30am alarm about 4,015 times. Has it been worth it? Without question, right down to the last ring. You can’t measure the early morning smell of chlorine. But when you can, I will make sure to tell you about it.  


Sunday, December 26th, 2021

In my previous Swimwatch post I discussed the avenues open to sport’s men and women who had “judicial” sporting problems to resolve. The post concluded with the recommendation that a Department of Justice managed Court or Tribunal offered more security and honesty than sport-based justice.

My conclusion ended with the following comment.

It is interesting that I have never heard of an enquiry case or an NSO case or a SRCMS or NZST case being decided against Sport New Zealand. No wonder Raelene Castle loves those avenues. She is playing justice roulette with a wheel of 100% black numbers.

As it turns out that comment is not entirely true. I do remember one case where a Sport New Zealand investigation found against Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). It was almost a case of the exception proving the rule. Here is what happened.

At the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games I was coaching swimming team member, Toni Jeffs. We arranged for Toni’s mother to come to Barcelona a week before the Games began. She was booked into a lovely beach hotel just outside the city. Toni asked if I could obtain SNZ’s permission for Toni to stay outside the village in her mother’s hotel. I agreed to ask and called Bert Cotterill, the SNZ team manager, to ask for permission. He said yes, as long as we got Toni to all the team training swims and her events during the competition. And that is what happened.

I was concerned therefore when a week later I was speaking to Alison in New Zealand who wanted to know what on earth was I doing about Toni’s accommodation. I said Toni was staying with her mother in the Clos de Pines Hotel. SNZ had given their permission.

“That is not what the papers and tv are saying here,” said Alison. “They say you pulled Toni out of the village without approval. There is going to be a full investigation when you get back to New Zealand”.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, back in New Zealand, an investigation was held and Toni and I were found not guilty. SNZ had made the whole thing up. We had asked for and obtained permission. SNZ had lied. A wind-up meeting was held in Wellington. SNZ said there had been a misunderstanding. Perhaps the whole issue could be resolved with an immediate SNZ apology on the condition that Toni and I agreed to the SNZ investigation and their apology being kept confidential. Like an idiot I agreed to those conditions. I say, “like an idiot” because the only story anyone knew was that I was the coach who got his swimmer out of the village without approval. Confidentiality meant the only story New Zealand heard was the SNZ lie.  

A few weeks later I was having a tyre repaired in a garage in Pahiatua. The guy repairing the tyre said, “Hey, aren’t you the coach who removed his swimmer from the Olympic village without permission?” And so it was throughout New Zealand. I had won the case but lost the war. SNZ used confidentiality to get what they wanted at my expense. It was a costly mistake. One I will never make again.

We should learn from that example. Individual sports are not interested in justice. I do not believe for a second that Canoe Racing cares about justice for Alan Thompson or cycling cares about justice for the life of Olivia Podmore. All that matters is winning. In my case, SNZ lost, I won, but there was never any justice. Do not make my mistake.

That is why in my most recent case I went to a normal Department of Justice Tribunal rather than risk a sporting kangaroo court.        


Saturday, December 25th, 2021

For any readers who ever have cause to require a “judicial” decision in a case involving sport, avoid the institutions established by New Zealand sport for that purpose. They are shamelessly bought, paid for, controlled and manipulated by Sport New Zealand for ends that only benefit Sport New Zealand. Stay well away.

The sort of kangaroo courts I mean are listed below.

  1. Any internal, “independent” inquiry. By their very nature these are never independent. Sport New Zealand pays for the QCs they always hire, and the findings are invariably what Sport New Zealand wants to hear. If you want an unbiased, honest opinion a Sport New Zealand “independent” inquiry is the last place to look. I’m sure he will excuse me for saying this, but this is the mistake Alan Thompson made. He trusted that the sharks at Canoe Racing New Zealand and Sport New Zealand were capable of honestly policing themselves. Fat chance of that. My guess is Olivia Podmore thought the same thing about cycling. And that didn’t turn out so well. Make no contribution, because if Sport New Zealand don’t like your views, they will simply file them in the plastic bucket below their desk. I have made a dozen contributions to these inquiries and always receive the same reply. It says something like, “Thank you for your valuable contribution. It is important. We will be in contact in the next three days to discuss.” In 20 years, I’m still waiting.
  2. An independent Sport New Zealand inquiry is a barren place to find justice. But the futility of complaining to the sport’s internal complaint service is beyond belief. A few years ago, I filed a complaint with the Bruce Cotterill led Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). A senior New Zealand swimmer had filmed a national champion coached by me getting changed in the female changing rooms and posted the topless photos on Instagram. I had a screenshot of the topless image and filed it and the complaint with SNZ. I knew the photographer was a SNZ favourite but her publication of a half-dressed swimmer getting changed was a step too far. But I was wrong. Three weeks went by without a reply. Finally, I wrote to SNZ and asked whether they had made a decision. This is a copy of the SNZ reply.

Hello David,

The matter in question was investigated following the NZ Open Championships. xxxxx responded to Swimming NZ queries by 12 April and matter was subsequently closed on 15 April. Kind regards, Christian Renford

It is not unreasonable to conclude that if photographing topless female swimmers getting changed at the National Championships and posting the photo on Instagram together with the comment “Dirty bitch” is not an event worthy of sanction, it is difficult to imagine what event would count as “Membership Protection”. The moral is, leave the complaint procedures of individual sports well alone.  

  • Two specialist bodies have been established to handle complaints about sport – The Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service (SRCMS) and the New Zealand Sports Tribunal (NZST). I have never used either organisation but suspect they better reflect the standards that apply in courts and outside tribunals such as the Human Rights Review Tribunal. However, both are part of sport rather that justice and therefore are open to the influence of Raelene Castle and her mates. The experience of Rugby in Australia, Cycling, Swimming, Rowing and Canoe Racing point to serious shortcomings. For example, Sport New Zealand loves to keep their disputes in house and “confidential”.  Both the SRCMS and NZST are far more inclined to hide names and events than the normal justice system. Justice behind closed door is usually justice denied. In the case of a 2010 decision, the Court of Appeal explicitly recognised that, “Without the commitment of an independent media the operation of the principle of open justice would be irremediably diminished.” As far as I am concerned the secrecy and vulnerability to manipulation present in both the SRCMS and NZST are not worth the risk. The “normal” justice system is open to all New Zealanders. My suggestion would be to use it.

It is interesting that I have never heard of an enquiry case or an NSO case or a SRCMS or NZST case being decided against Sport New Zealand. No wonder Raelene Castle loves those avenues. She is playing justice roulette with a wheel of 100% black numbers. Normal Department of Justice institutions do not provide her with that certainty. And that is why I would recommend that anyone involved in sport take their case to the Courts or a Department of Justice Tribunal. A lady with a blindfold, a pair of scales and a sword dispenses justice there. And her name is most certainly not Raelene Castle.


Friday, December 24th, 2021

Canoe Racing New Zealand (CRNZ) has held its Special General Meeting. The 16 member clubs voted to expel double Olympic champion, Alan Thompson following accusations of sexual harassment.

I have no knowledge of Thompson’s accusers or the truthfulness of their accusations. However, the timing of the complaints is hugely suspicious. The complaints were made slap-bang in the middle of a Thompson led campaign focused on CRNZ bullying of its female members. The impression of silencing a critic, the smell of corruption is difficult to avoid. Have CRNZ decided to put-down a critic who was in the process of disrupting their $2,500,000 a year Sport New Zealand funded lifestyle?

I do not know the answer to those questions. However, having witnessed up close and personal the behavior of administrators gone rogue in other sports; I am very suspicious. What can be done about it now?

Well, that is up to Alan. I wish him well. In the same impossible position, here is what I would do.

  1. I would look seriously at myself. Is there any truth at all in what the accusers have said?
  2. If the most honest answer is, no truth at all, then it is time for fresh air to expose CRNZ participation in a witch-hunt.
  3. I would transfer everything out of CRNZ’s dispute process. Alan Thompson will never get justice there. Not in one hundred years. Transfer it into one of the systems our society has to handle “legal” disputes. In similar circumstances I chose the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Review Tribunal. I don’t think that is what Alan Thompson needs. It may be the Courts. I am sure Alan’s lawyer will know the appropriate judicial process, well away from manipulation by Sport New Zealand and CRNZ. But have nothing to do with any dispute process that is bought and paid for by Sport New Zealand. Alan says he wants witnesses, hearings, cross examinations and justice. Then he needs to go to the place our society and many years of legal history have designed for that purpose. That is what Folau did and won. That is what I did and got a fair hearing. Sadly, that is what Podmore should have done. Get out of Castle’s kangaroo court and into the mainstream.  
  4. Be prepared to come clean with everything. What are the accusations? Who are the accusers? If they are lying about Alan Thompson, expose the lies, the names and the deception. There are very good reasons for courts being open to the public. The eighteenth-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham described this best when he said

In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.

This case has reached that point.   

There are three reasons a case like this has to be fought and won.

  1. No one should get away with falsely destroying another person’s life.
  2. If two or three women have been coerced into lying either on their own or with CRNZ’s participation they are attacking every woman who has an honest complaint and may not be believed because these three used it to get even.  
  3. New Zealand sport can do without its systems being corrupted by bad actors.           

For those three reasons I would not give up. Not under any circumstances. New Zealand sport in general, women’s sport in particular and Alan Thompson’s hard-won career deserve no less. I wish him well. If Alan is being lied about. If there is corruption afoot, then the fight Alan is having now is more important to New Zealand sport than his two Olympic gold medals.