New Zealand cycling environment diminishes ‘athletes’ mana’

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It paints a bleak picture of being a top athlete in New Zealand when one of our major sporting organizations is described as ‘lowering the mana of athletes’.

It is just one of the scathing remarks from a panel that spent four months investigating the environment at Cycling New Zealand following the sudden death of top sprint cyclist Olivia Podmore in August 2021, aged just 24.

Almost nothing is off limits in the 104-page report, with the centralized Cambridge program called ‘sub-optimal’, the rules around speaking to the media called ‘chillers’ and CNZ and their umbrella organization High Performance Sport New Zealand said to “seriously look at gender bias within their organisations”.

In 2018 the first investigation conducted by Michael Heron QC on the environment at CNZ was published, part of the latest investigation was to determine whether the recommendations had been successfully implemented.

The short answer is that policies have been created, but little has changed.

The report almost suggests starting with a clean slate, with the days of the centralized cycling program for our top athletes at Cambridge surely numbered with reconsideration recommended.

READ MORE: Podmore report: Family hope Olivia’s death won’t be in vain

The report finds that it has created more problems than it has solved with impacts on athlete well-being “concerning” the way it removes athletes from their support network and places them in an environment pressure cooker that is “generally male-dominated, pākehā-centric”. ”.

After Podmore’s death, there were questions about how women and their health issues in particular were handled in the high performance environment.

HPSNZ claims that women’s healthcare is unrelated to performance needs and should be handled by GPs, but this is disputed by the panel and its report.

They believe it is a performance issue and that the lack of an effective and holistic system is detrimental, “it puts women at risk and risks unlawful discrimination”.

The Athlete Agreements signed between the Cyclists and CNZ have also come under the microscope as requiring “serious attention to address imbalance and injustice”.

Athletes act as contractors rather than employees, which means they lack basic protections like minimum wage.

“While the Athlete Agreement requires Athletes to always act in good faith towards CNZ and its stakeholders, there is no corresponding obligation on CNZ. Such deviation is without principle and diminishes Athletes’ mana “.

Where to get help.

A new funding model was introduced in January 2022, but even this is not without criticism and is already under review by HPSNZ.

The report says the system relies on athletes to find alternative sources of funding, rendering sport “exclusive” and “inequitable,” reinforcing the assumption that HP sport is the preserve of the middle to upper classes.

Before the report was released on Friday, Podmore’s family told 1News that they hoped changes would be made within organizations so that his death would not be in vain.

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