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Inquiry launched following death of New Zealand track cyclist Olivia Podmore

New Zealands Olivia Podmore lines up on the track before competing in the Womens sprint qualifying track cycling event at the Velodrome during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 14 2016 AFP Eric FEFERBERG Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERGAFP via Getty Images
Olivia Podmore at the Rio Olympic Games (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Cycling New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand have announced that they will commission an independent inquiry after the sudden death of track cyclist Olivia Podmore raised serious questions about athlete wellbeing.

This is not the first time the microscope has been turned on the high performance cycling programme in New Zealand, with the Heron Review established in response to allegations that surfaced in the media in 2018. When completed it reported instances of bullying, an inappropriate personal relationship, as well as a dysfunctional culture during the review period. The joint statement said the new inquiry would also look into the adequacy of the changes made following that review.

“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,” said Raelene Castle, Chief Executive of High Performance Sport NZ. “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.”

The Christchurch-born Podmore won silver in the team sprint and bronze in the time trial at the 2015 Junior World Championships, represented New Zealand at the 2016 Olympic Games, the 2018 Commonwealth Games and a number of other major events. The 24 year old had qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but was not selected to compete.

Since Podmore’s  death, there has been considerable discussion in the New Zealand media about the way the high performance programme is conducted, with former athletes among those raising concerns.

“We have been listening carefully to the voices of athletes who have spoken out or made contact with us directly,” said Phil Holden, Cycling New Zealand Chairperson. “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.” 

The statement said further details of the inquiry would be confirmed next week, with the scope and framework to be defined in conjunction with an independent inquirer.