By Craig Lord
I fully understand why Kirsty would not wish to talk openly about the political situation in Zimbabwe. However, I did not suggest that I would not speak to other people and indeed write about the situation in my own words.
I also fully understand why sportsmen and administrators would not wish to mix politics and sport. However, my role is different. I am a journalist and I feel that, as a journalist living in a free society just like your own in the United States, not only do I have a right to write about all issues surrounding Kirsty's fantastic achievements at the Olympic Games but I also have a duty to do so. It is my profession.
The fact that Kirsty comes from Zimbabwe, a nation led by a corrupt, racist
regime that does not allow freedom of speech or any of the freedoms Kirsty and all of you there at Auburn enjoy every day of your lives, is part of the Kirsty Coventry story. There is little you can do about that.
Kirsty will doubtless continue to refuse to comment on the political situation in Zimbabwe. That is as understandable as it is her right. However, I will continue to write about issues that Kirsty feels to be at the very periphery of her story and will vigorously defend the right to do so. I hope that she can understand the view from my post as much as I can understand and appreciate the view from hers.
I absolutely and categorically deny that I misrepresented myself or anyone
else in my mail to Kirsty at Auburn. Given that she is immersed in world
swimming and reads Swimming World regularly, as she states, she will doubtless have known my work and have known that I am a journalist from The Times newspaper in London, a journalist with considerable experience and one who has dealt with many difficult subjects, from drugs to cheating and corruption and over to the other end of the spectrum, off writing about the great swims and triumphs in the sport of swimming. Much of that writing has helped, in the past 16 years, bring about changes in the sport's doping rules and so forth. I feel I have been on the side of those who have fought for better days in swimming.
Some will agree; others will disagree. Whatever your view, I really do not feel that I have misrepresented myself, Kirsty or Auburn. I have merely written about a difficult subject and allowed the voices of some who wish to be heard from within Zimbabwe to be aired.
I am not a PR machine, I do live in a place where freedom of speech and the free airing of views is not banned and I defend the right to write on any subject in any context in a fair and meaningful light. That is what I feel I have done in the feature I wrote for Swimming World.
I am most happy that Kirsty felt able to reveal what has happened to the
$50,000 that I reported (correctly) that she had received from the regime
led by Mugabe, a man who in the same year as he welcomed Kirsty home from Athens also said publicly that he wished to see "the fear in the eyes of whites". The moment I cannot write such a phrase is the moment freedom dies.
I wish Kirsty and all at Auburn the very best for their swimming careers. I
also hope that they will all look left and right from time to time and see
the world around them.
Silence is golden to brutal dictators. Mugabe would love everyone to be
silent on Zimbabwe. None of us who share such world camaraderie in sport
should wish anyone to be silent about such situations as exist in Kirsty's
homeland. The very fact that she can openly criticise me speaks volumes for the worth of free speech and freedom. Of course, neither Kirsty nor I could criticise Mugabe in any way at all inside Zimbabwe. In that sense, I am very glad that Kirsty should have her views aired. I hope too that she will think about those who truly do her an injustice.