Athletics NZ in firing line over Val-Gate saga

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 26/08/2012
Murray McCully
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
MURRAY MCCULLY: Minister of Sport.

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Athletics New Zealand officials were yesterday ducking for cover after the focus for the Valerie Adams' Olympic fiasco shifted fairly and squarely onto the national track-and-field body.

Sports Minister Murray McCully last week launched his promised review of the administrative shambles that surrounded Adams' Games campaign, convening a meeting that included representatives of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, as well as High Performance Sport NZ chief Alex Baumann.

It's not clear whether representatives of Athletics NZ also attended McCully's meeting, with the organisation putting up the shutters to inquiries around the investigation.

The Kiwi shot-put star originally finished in the silver medal position in London, but was promoted soon after to a second straight Olympic gold, after Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk was unearthed as a drugs cheat.

But the Olympic campaign by the three-time world champion had been dogged by issues, most of which could, and should, have been avoided. That is the main thrust of McCully's review, with the minister vowing that the lessons of the whole affair would be heeded.

As well as the much-publicised failure to confirm her entry, which created an unnecessary distraction on the eve of her event, Adams was also confronted by issues over her accommodation in the athletes' village and her team issue uniform.

The series of problems appeared to knock Adams off her stride in London as she presented slightly off her best, and also lacking her usual confidence and purpose as she could manage a best throw of just 20.70 metres.

She said afterwards that the uncertainty over her entry confirmation had not helped in her preparation for the event, and admitted she had not been her usual self.

Initially, the New Zealand Olympic Committee copped most of the flak around the entry confirmation shambles, after it had admitted that its athletics team manager, Raylene Bates, had been responsible for the administrative error that resulted in the red-tape confusion.

However, as McCully's review digs deeper into Adams' issues it now appears Athletics NZ is emerging as the culpable party in most of the problems.

Bates was an Athletics NZ appointment and the issues around the athlete's accommodation arrangements and uniform fitting were also the responsibility of the sporting body.

Though officials from both the NZOC and HPSNZ refused to comment on the McCully review at this stage, it's understood that Athletics NZ's role in the London shortcomings has been a hot topic among discussions.

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Athletics NZ chief executive Scott Newman yesterday failed to return calls by the Sunday Star-Times, while high performance chief Scott Goodman was away on holiday. At the very least, it's thought the national organisation owes Adams a public apology, and it seems likely the track-and-field body will receive a rap over the knuckles for failing to provide the sort of high performance environment required at this level. Meanwhile, just when and where Adams will be awarded the Olympic gold she was denied, remains up in the air.

Adams told reporters in Switzerland, where she is training and competing, that she wanted to receive the medal “in a stadium full of people”, but indicated she would be happy to be awarded it in New Zealand at a later date.

The ball is in the IOC's court as it deals with a reported appeal by Ostapchuk over her drugs ban. But it would appear moves are already afoot in New Zealand to deliver Adams the special moment she was denied in front of 80,000 fans in London.

It is understood one proposal has been made to present Adams with her gold medal at the Christmas in the Park outdoor concert in Auckland on December 8.

The annual event draws crowds in excess of 200,000 and is being mooted as an ideal platform for the New Zealander to be honoured in the fashion she should have been in London.

- Fairfax Media

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