Cycling New Zealand have commissioned an investigation into the culture at the organisation following the tragic death of Olivia Podmore.
The former Olympic track cyclist died suddenly last week, leaving the cycling community shocked and leading to questions about Cycling NZ’s culture.
As revealed by the Herald, Podmore was allegedly pressured to lie by Cycling NZ as part of a 2018 investigation into impropriety at the sporting body.
Those close to the Rio 2016 Olympic athlete also say she was troubled by her lack of selection at the Tokyo Olympics – which some Cycling NZ teammates viewed as unfair.
In a statement on Thursday, Cycling NZ and High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) said a joint independent inquiry would include the adequacy of the changes made in the wake of the 2018 investigation, called the Heron Review, into the high performance programme of Cycling NZ.
The Heron review was triggered by cycling sprint coach Anthony Peden’s resignation following allegations of bullying, drinking and an inappropriate relationship between Peden and an athlete.
The investigation concluded there was a lack of accountability and leadership throughout the Cycling NZ operation and a reluctance to raise issues, including “instances of bullying”.
“We have been listening carefully to the voices of athletes who have spoken out or made contact with us directly. The Board of Cycling New Zealand are very clear they want to make sure that those perspectives are built into this inquiry right from the start,” Cycling NZ chairperson Phil Holden said in the statement.
“Given how closely we work with HPSNZ, it is important that all of our individual and joint systems are reviewed concurrently.”
Chief Executive of HPSNZ Raelene Castle said Podmore’s death had raised serious questions about athlete wellbeing in the wake of the Tokyo Olympics that must be acted
“Olivia’s death has focussed our attention once more on the complex issues surrounding athlete welfare and wellbeing, issues that the system has grappled with across a number of years. Our priority is to ensure we understand what has happened and what more can be done.
“Understanding something so complex will take time. We also must respect and engage in the coronial enquiry that is underway.
“A joint inquiry is the right thing to do to ensure we take a system view of the issue and are sensitive to all parties affected by this tragedy.”
The inquiry scope and framework will be defined in conjunction with a yet to be appointed independent inquirer.
Podmore, from Canterbury, represented New Zealand at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the women’s team sprint event and rode at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships that year.
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