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New Zealand cycling under siege

By Cyclingnews staff

An inquiry released on May 1 into an alcohol-fuelled incident during the recent Commonwealth Games in Melbourne has found two New Zealand cyclists guilty of both breaching their contract with overall umbrella body Bike New Zealand, Cycling New Zealand, and the Athlete's Disciplinary Code.

Cycling New Zealand's judicial panel told Marc Ryan and Tim Gudsell to receive counselling within three months or face further sanctions. The duo have not been ruled out for national team selection, prompting outbursts from Liz Williams, who was also involved in the incident, and her mother Patricia.

Liz Williams told talkback Radio Live, "We want to put a stop to this behaviour so any girl coming through now can go away with that team and have no problems at all." Patricia Williams told New Zealand's Radio Sport, "It's a very destructive culture, and very unsafe for all the girls who go away with the NZ cycling team."

However, exactly what the 'incident' was and how deep such a 'destructive culture' reaches is still to be revealed, and is the cause of much debate amongst New Zealand's cyclists and press.

On March 23 Melbourne's Herald Sun reported an incident that took place between 3 and 5am on March 20 involving three members of the New Zealand cycling team. The paper reported a female team member had made a complaint that two males had tried to strip her and urinate on her at the Games' village following a night of drinking after the last night of Commonwealth track cycling competition.

The two males, later confirmed to be Gudsell and Ryan, had already left the Games village in accordance with prior travel arrangements, and the police had not been involved.

Dave Currie, New Zealand's Chef de Mission, said at the time that, "there hasn't been an incident." The next day however, Currie said, "I want to confirm there was an incident that happened a couple of days ago involving three members of our cycle team arriving home in the village in the early hours of the morning."

Further reports amongst the Australian and New Zealand press focused on a suspected binge drinking culture within kiwi cycling.

On March 24, the three cyclists had been named, but Williams, 25, had had a statement read out by the New Zealand psychologist Gary Hermansson playing down the incident saying it was a "non-event." No further details were revealed, only causing further speculation and allegations of a cover-up.

Following the May 1 publication, which vindicated Williams of any wrongdoing, BikeNZ's handling of the incident has again been brought into the spotlight. Cycling NZ president Wayne Hudson, questioned after the May 1 report's release, said Cycling NZ would not reveal what happened and disagreed that the incident should be fully disclosed.

"Transparency doesn't actually mean going back over the incident and looking at the dirty, grubby details of it all which everybody has been reporting."

David Leggat, writing in The New Zealand Herald has said that by keeping quiet, "Cycling NZ has done (Ryan and Gudsell) no favours with its decision...if Ryan and Gudsell's behaviour was truly blown out of proportion, why not reveal it?" Hudson fuelled arguments of a drinking culture within the team by admitting he had dealt with 15 disciplinary and doping complaints over the past three years.

Williams, meanwhile said, "We want to put a stop to this behaviour so any girl coming through now can go away with that team and have no problems at all."

"I've long said there should be a chaperone going with the girls," mother Patricia Williams said, "because they have been unsafe for a very long time."

A review of the Commonwealth Games campaign will be conducted by BikeNZ chief executive Rodger Thompson as promised, and will include an investigation of the team's culture. Unfortunately for cycling in New Zealand it may be too little too late. The team has already been under fire for failing to bring home the expected bags of medals from Melbourne's Games.

In the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, BikeNZ now faces more pressure with the government's sports funding body SPARC analysing Commonwealth Games' performances, and the Williams saga set to continue.

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