From the Chair

Suzanne Snively ONZM Chair Transparency International New Zealand

Suzanne Snively ONZM
Transparency International New Zealand

The movie, “The Armstrong Lie”, should have better prepared me for the Australia cricket scandal. Lance Armstrong’s cheating behaviour was so disturbing that I kept shaking myself during the film, hoping to wake up and find that it was a nightmare.  

Here was a man so determined to win that he followed the innovative, interventionist and illegal prescription of his Italian specialist doctor for years. Armstrong’s performance as a cyclist kept improving while the prescription allowed him to routinely pass the drug tests required at the time. He became an international leader and role model.

While Armstrong wasn’t the only one cheating, he was in a league of his own when it came to rationalising his reasons, lying, and coming out as the leader of the pack – winning race after race.

Last month’s Fraud Film Festival held at Auckland’s ASB Theatre featured a number of the growing genre of movies focussed on bribery and corruption, including “The Armstrong Lie”.  After the screening, former New Zealand ‎cyclist and Armstrong’s teammate, Stephen Swart led an excellent discussion.

Swart had bravely called out Armstrong in the early 1990s but it wasn’t until over 20 years later that the latter finally confessed to the allegations. Armstrong had won year after year over that period – even staging a comeback as a cancer survivor.  

‎In Swart’s view, it’s too late to fully restore integrity in sports. He believes that winning at all costs drives sports people to seek out clinical experts and pharmaceutical solutions that defy testing. There’s a of fallacy of being a victim if they don’t win.

Clinical sophistication was not required for Australian Bowler Cameron ‎Bancroft to cheat at cricket by tampering the ball with a small strip of sandpaper. When captured on camera attempting to hide the evidence down his trousers, he first claimed it was sticky tape.

This cheating went straight to the top with the Australian Cricket captain and his deputy admitting to have been involved in this premeditated‎ act.

The damage to ‎Australia’s reputation was immediate and immense. Commentators called Australia “the country whose early settlers were convicts from England, a country of cheats”.

Although it took some days for the Australian Cricket establishment to recognise the wider implications of the ball tampering, to his credit, the Australian Prime Minister quickly acknowledged the gravity of the situation.

Only time will tell the extent of the reputational damage. The damage that sports cheats cause is powerful motivation to support those agencies, such as World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Drug Free Sport NZ, that are dedicated for sport to be corruption free.

Sporting integrity expert Declan Hill says “the proceeds from sports illegal match fixing is conservatively estimated to be US$1.5 Trillion”. Sports match fixing relies on dishonest athletes like Armstrong and naive players like Bancroft to forget that leadership is about doing the right thing always.

The strengthening of the Police Financial Intelligence Unit and the work of Sport NZ, provides the framework so that New Zealand can remain as good as it is perceived. Both organisations become enabled to call out what is unacceptable activity and then  ensure that there are sanctions exercised once such behaviour is detected.

In the end, though, it’s up to all of us to recognise that it’s individual behaviour that makes up the whole, and the courage of New Zealanders like Stephen Swart that sets us apart.

Suzanne Snively, ONZM


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