21 Sep 2021

Panel to investigate athlete welfare in top flight cycling unveiled

1:28 pm on 21 September 2021

An independent panel to investigate athlete welfare in top level cycling has been established, in the wake of the suspected suicide of Olympic cyclist Olivia Podmore.

Lawyer Mike Heron, who investigated the sport in 2018, will co-chair the latest inquiry, alongside sports professor Sarah Leberman, Olympic rower Genevieve Macky and former Silver Ferns captain Lesley Nicol, who was involved in the recent review of gymnastics.

Podmore, 24, died in August, following a social media post about the pressures of top level sport.

Heron's 2018 review of cycling highlighted a lack of accountability, bullying and dysfunctional culture in the sport.

He made a raft of recommendations several relating to athlete well being.

Solicitor-General Mike Heron QC

Michael Heron QC. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The new panel will assess the adequacy of the implementation of those recommendations, identify areas for further improvement for athlete well-being and assess the support offered to athletes in Cycling New Zealand's high performance programme.

A Coronial Inquiry to investigate the cause and circumstances of Podmore's death is also underway.

Cycling New Zealand and High Performance Sport NZ say they are co-operating fully with that inquiry and that the independent inquiry will not overlap with the coronial process, which will take place over a longer period of time than the independent inquiry.

"Each member of the panel will bring a different perspective to this inquiry and we believe that the diversity of expertise and experience will help ensure the inquiry meets its objectives," Cycling NZ chair Phil Holden said.

New Zealand cyclist Olivia Podmore.


"We've listened carefully to what cycling athletes have been saying, and felt it was especially important that there were athletes on the panel who had experience in a high performance environment, and a strong representation of expert women."

High Performance Sport NZ chief executive Raelene Castle said "we are committed to ensuring that the people central to this inquiry are consulted and listened to. We started that process, by actively engaging with those groups in the development of the TOR, (Terms of Reference) and we are determined to ensure that the participants remain at the heart of this process."