Cycling review expected to reveal widespread systemic failings in top level sport

ANALYSIS: An independent inquiry into Cycling NZ and its government “partners” following the death of Rio Olympian Olivia Podmore is expected to reveal widespread systemic failings in the way elite sport in this country is run.

The long-awaited findings of the review are due to be released later this month, nine months on from Podmore’s suspected suicide, which put the spotlight on New Zealand’s culture of high performance sporting environments.

Stuff understands representatives from High Performance Sport NZ, including boss Raelene Castle, Cycling NZ and the review panel will meet with Podmore’s family in Christchurch next week to outline the review findings, ahead of the report being made public on May 16.

Elite cyclist Olivia Podmore loved the freedom of being out on the road, her family say.

Supplied / Stuff

Elite cyclist Olivia Podmore loved the freedom of being out on the road, her family say.

However, it is believed many of the troubling details of Podmore’s time in Cycling NZ’s elite sprint program will not be traversed in the final report, with the inquiry focused on the broader system-wide issues.

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The release of the report comes three months after the panel, led by Mike Heron QC and senior academic Sarah Leaberman, submitted their draft findings to stakeholders. The lapse in time has created angst within the cycling community that the final report will be “watered down”.

Such fears were not eased when Castle appeared to be tempering expectations of what the review will cover off in a meeting with the Cycling NZ athletes’ group last month. According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, the athletes left with the impression that the full report would not be made public on the grounds of “privacy”.

Olivia Podmore and Natasha Hansen react after winning gold in the women's team sprint final at the 2019 UCI World Cup in Cambridge.

Alex Whitehead / Photosport

Olivia Podmore and Natasha Hansen react after winning gold in the women’s team sprint final at the 2019 UCI World Cup in Cambridge.

In the intervening weeks, pointed questions have been asked of the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Grant Robertson, about plans to release the report. Last month National MP Michael Woodhouse submitted a raft of parliamentary questions about the inquiry, including querying whether the ministry had received any advice not to release the review findings, to which Robertson’s response was an unequivocal “no”.

A spokesperson for High Performance Sport NZ confirmed to Stuff that the report will be released in full in line with the terms of reference, which states: “While the intention is… to publish the results of the Inquiry in the interests of transparency, to the extent that any matters referred to relate to individuals or specific concerns, these matters will be redacted in the published version to protect their privacy and in recognition of the sensitive nature of some of the matters at issue. ”

The terms of reference also stipulated that the inquiry would not deal with individual complaints or fresh allegations, with the investigation to focus on how adequately the recommendations of the 2018 Heron review into Cycling NZ were implemented.

These terms, along with Cycling NZ’s refusal to lift the provisions of non-disclosure agreements in place with athletes, have led to the view that the inquiry has been set up to protect the interests of Cycling NZ and the government agency more so than the athletes they are charged with protecting.

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