23 Aug 2018

NZ sport not broken despite increasing high performance reviews

6:54 am on 23 August 2018

Sport New Zealand maintains the country's sports system isn't broken despite a growing list of complaints from top athletes in cycling, rowing and hockey.

Hockey is the latest to announce it's carrying out a review of it's high programme in the wake of complaints over Black Sticks women's coach Mark Hager and the environment within in the side.

However yesterday seven former players with nearly 900 test caps between them sent an open letter in support of Hager denying there was a 'negative environment' within the Black Sticks programme, or that Hager mistreated, bullied or played mind games with players.

An independent review is currently underway over bullying allegations within cycling's high performance programme while rowing recently underwent a culture review which questioned whether the desire for medals was being prioritised over athlete well-being.

Commonwealth Games gold medals

Commonwealth Games gold medals Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

The chief executive of Sport New Zealand Peter Miskimmin - himself a former New Zealand hockey international said "there's a real growing momentum around the need for a stronger athlete voice, athlete rights and athlete welfare - it's a long way from my day when it was all about command and control and we understand things are changing and some of the behaviours of the part are not acceptable today."

But he doesn't believe the the New Zealand system is broken.

"No no it's not broken. With any system things evolve and change...we've got athletes today that are different from the past and they're expecting different conditions and circumstances.

Sport New Zealand CEO Peter Miskimmin.

Sport New Zealand CEO Peter Miskimmin. Photo: Photosport

"The balance for sports - just as it is for employers, someone makes an accusation and that needs to be investigated thoroughly. So you have got care of the athlete and natural justice for the coach and that's the balance national sporting bodies are trying to bring to this and that's why we have got a number of these reviews going on.

Miskimmin rejected any suggestion that athletes simply needed to toughen up if they wanted to get to the top in international sport.

"I have heard people say that but in my mind we can get to an environment...where we can have both a winning attitude but we can also look after athletes.

We won't get it right every time but we can get to a (better) environment and create more success.