NZ’s sporting image ‘tarnished’ by doping scandal

A “very, very disappointed” Rod Dixon is not surprised that New Zealand has had a case of doping in high-performance sport and says he and others have warned Kiwi officials for years that more needs to be done.

Dixon – who won bronze in the men’s 1500 meters at the 1972 Olympics – spoke to 1News this afternoon amid the fact that two-time Olympian Zane Robertson was banned from the sport for eight years for doping and falsely claiming he was contracting a Covid-19 -Vaccine.

Robertson tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) and presented false documentation in his defense after being tested at the Great Manchester Run in the UK in May 2022.

The New York Marathon winner said the news was an unfortunate inevitability that both Athletics New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand must adopt.

“This comes after years of warnings from athletes like me,” Dixon told 1News.

“She [Athletics NZ and HPSNZ] have been repeatedly told that they should be careful to pay more attention to what their athletes are doing.

“Everyone involved in a high level of performance is responsible for what happened.

“This is just an example — it’s out there, it’s been happening under the radar for so long.”

Rod Dixon in the men's 1500m final at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

It comes after Athletics NZ said in a statement earlier this month that they had received a letter from World Athletics’ anti-doping regulator – the Athletics Integrity Unit – seeking a statement of inadequate doping testing of Kiwi athletes was sought in the past year.

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Athletics NZ said in the statement that ahead of the 2022 World Cups they had carried out less than half the usual testing in all sports, but this was due to the government’s Covid-19 restrictions at the time.

Regardless, now that a positive case has been discovered, Dixon said New Zealand’s sporting image is being questioned by event organizers.

“[New Zealand runners] are being questioned, they are being scrutinized even more – I’ve already been on the phone and spoken to organizers and race directors for most of the afternoon and they said they have to look at this now whenever they want any athletes from New Zealand ever again invite because one athlete is good enough to dull the rest,” he said.

“The first question the media connecting to events will ask is, ‘Why are you bringing someone from New Zealand who is from a country where an athlete has been banned from EPO for eight years?’

“You have to question that.”

Dixon added the first step in managing and resolving the situation is to improve doping education.

“We’re waiting at the bottom of the cliff, but we should be on top of the cliff to prevent that.

“There should be an educational program that is understood to be unacceptable.

“Athletics New Zealand just posted that they are giving [Robertson] Counseling – why didn’t they counsel him three or five years ago?

“There should be a program in schools that understands what’s going on.”

1News has contacted Athletics NZ regarding Dixon’s comments.

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