price is right for Craig Stevens, by Matthew Benns
- 25th April 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald)
The swimmer has a secret, but for $60,000 he is willing
to share it with the world. Matthew Benns reports.
night swimmer Craig Stevens will pick up a cheque
for $60,000 for making the announcement Australia
has waited a month to hear.
has already made his decision on whether or not to
swim in the 400 metres freestyle event at the Athens
Olympics and pre-recorded his reasons with Today Tonight
reporter Anna Coren in Canberra on Friday.
Ian Thorpe toppled off the blocks and was disqualified
from the event at the Australian Olympic trials exactly
a month ago, the focus has turned from Stevens's decision
to the money he will receive from Channel Seven for
has become an ethical and moral minefield for a young
man who until a month ago did not even have a manager
and survived on a $30,000 Australian Institute of
new manager Robert Joske insists the announcement
is not about money. The swimmer will be contracted
to Channel Seven and is "taking an opportunity
to enhance his work skills".
is no denying the 23-year-old swimmer has become a
hot media property.
the networks said, 'We don't care what his answer
is, we just want to be the one that gets it',"
inside Channel Seven insist they did not know Stevens's
decision until the cameras started to roll. They were
quite prepared to pay the money - with a 12-month
loyalty contract and some media training - no matter
what he said.
Olympic Committee president John Coates has no doubt
what that decision is. "We don't begrudge him
the money but we are aware that he had an agent out
there offering the story to the TV networks. It is
obvious that he is going to step aside for Ian."
many in the AOC admire the way Stevens has handled
himself, being paid for his announcement may have
tarnished his public image. In the minds of sport
fans, Stevens could be seen as the man who gave up
his spot on the blocks for money. Thorpe is once again
the favourite for the Olympics.
consultant Dr Simon Longstaff from the St James Ethics
Centre believes Stevens will have reached his decision
in accordance with the highest Olympic ideals.
is very hard to know what is in his mind. If it had
been me I would have been asking myself, 'Is my position
in the team something that has been secured through
merit or is it the product of an accident? Is that
the kind of windfall that I wish to take advantage
of? Will I profit from something that happened to
someone who is as honourable as I am?'
is the kind of thinking that is far more central to
the ideals of the modern Olympic Games than thoughts
of national medal tallies."
once the decision was made, Longstaff believes Stevens
made a mistake in taking cash to announce it.
is not especially unethical but it is possibly unwise
because people are likely to jump to the least charitable
interpretation of your motives.
he decided to do that it created in the minds of people
the false impression that one of the principle influences
in his decision making is money.
is a grave disservice to the true nature of his character."
however, said it was "a big ask" for Stevens
to waive the fee.
are asking a young bloke to think through all this
and give up $60,000 to manage perceptions about his
character," he said. "There are a lot of
people who take risks with their character for $5000."
Stevens's peers it is not the money that is the problem.
Former champion swimmer Kieren Perkins said: "I
don't see anything at all wrong with him taking the
money. Everybody else in the country makes money from
the situations they are in, so why shouldn't Craig
I disagree with is that the announcement has been
delayed so long. It's a decision he could have made
weeks ago and I don't see why we all had to wait another
two or three weeks for an announcement.
could have negotiated this deal two weeks ago and
the focus could have been the decision, not the money
he is being paid."
explained: "Big decisions should not be rushed.
The bigger the decision the more time the person should
take in reconnaissance. The team congregates on May
2 and that's the time line we have been working on."
was also a delay while the AOC checked with lawyers
whether third placegetter at the trials, Josh Krogh,
could step in. When that was ruled out, Stevens still
had to make up his mind.
said: "He is a very, very strong man mentally
and physically. He has had a fair amount of decision
making to do and we have told him to take his time
and understand the repercussions of any decision he
pressure has been on from the moment Thorpe toppled
into the pool.
Swimming Inc media director Ian Hanson said: "I
think it's unfair to suggest Craig has been hanging
out for the money because it has been there right
from the word go.
had six calls within an hour from the major magazine
groups and television programs who were prepared to
pay for the Craig Stevens story.
had to pass them all on to an interim manager because
Craig still had two races to go and someone had to
handle the calls. He has never had anything in his
life and all this is totally new to him."
soon as it happened, possibly with an eye on the ratings,
Channel Seven boss David Leckie suggested to Coates
that Thorpe be given a wild card. When that was ruled
out he approached Macquarie Radio owner John Singleton
to see if a financial deal could be put together.
It finally ended up as a straight bidding war between
Channel Seven and Channel Nine. Seven won.
the decision is announced tomorrow night, a call will
be made to Australian Swimming Inc to inform the sport's
said: "I don't know if the phone call will come
through before or after the program. It is a matter
of courtesy informing our CEO, Glenn Tasker, who will
then tell the national head coach Leigh Nugent.
am sure that Ian would want to talk to Craig and find
out from the horse's mouth the reasons he does not
want to swim. If he is satisfied with those reasons
and wants to swim then he will talk to Leigh."
Thorpe and his coach, Tracey Menzies, will then sit
down to discuss Thorpe's Olympic schedule. If it gets
to that stage, Hanson said: "I am pretty sure
that Ian's name will be down for the 400 metre freestyle
when the final entries go into the International Olympic
Committee on July 9."
manager, David Flaskas, said: "Ian has never
wavered. Ian would only consider doing it if he was
convinced that Craig wasn't pressed into giving it
up. Publicly and privately he has told Craig he will
support him whatever the decision."
said Thorpe would not be appearing on the TV program
with Stevens and at the end of last week still did
not know if Stevens was swimming. "I have no
idea what the decision is; they are playing their
cards very close to their chest. No doubt we may hear
something before it is announced."
did not begrudge Stevens the money.
what he had to endure I wouldn't begrudge him a million
dollars. He survives on a pretty small scholarship
and it's also a great career opportunity," he
said. "It has been tough on two really decent
young guys. They are really, really close mates and
they would both like to put a line under this and
get on with it."
swimmers get together on the Gold Coast next Sunday
for an Olympic orientation camp and to put the "Oops"
fiasco behind them. Later in the month, 13 of the
squad, including Thorpe and Stevens, will fly to Flagstaff
in Arizona for altitude training.
said: "The spirit on any Australian team is extraordinary
and none more so than the swimming team. This has
Sydney Morning Herald
Institute of Sport
to announce decision on Monday - 22nd April 2004
Great Aussie Promoters, by Greg Tingle