The recent canoeing controversy in New Zealand high performance sport has left me asking about potential bullying in my 14 seasons as an international rower.
Was I pushed hard? Yes, beyond my initial perceived limits.
Was it more difficult than I expected? Absolutely.
Did I enjoy all of my time training? Hell, no.
Was the pressure put on me by the coach and the programme there to get me to win gold medals? Of course, and that's where my mind keeps returning: high performance.
We have seen from various sporting reviews in the last couple of years that there have been multiple reported cases of "bullying" in New Zealand sport. Yes, some athletes have had unfair treatment in such stressful and pressurised environments.
Other times I think some of the coverage or discussion is misplaced and more a case of athletes failing to come to grips with the fact the high-performance dream they signed up to is not all fun and fluffy ducks.
Let me go out further on a limb. You generally don't have successful top-level athletes complaining about their treatment. They tend to live by the Hamish Bond philosophy of "make sure you are the best, then your ability is never questioned".
They are the types of athletes normally content with the outcome of their goals, who walk away from sport on their own terms. Maybe that provides a hint as to the skew of coverage in such controversies.
These athletes have been exposed to the constant pressure and expectation to perform and they produced results. Instead we hear more from athletes who "missed selection" or got "cut" from the team.
That's how high-performance systems work.
In saying that, I know sportspeople's dreams can be dashed by a lack of form or injury. It is never nice on the cut line, and I've been there. It becomes a tightrope situation of realising your ambitions or living with regret - or even resentment - forever. As athletes they sign up for that. It defines "high performance".
After all the debate on culture among national sports organisations, the core aim at high-performance level is to get medals for New Zealand. The athletes are paid by taxpayers who become stakeholders in the deal.
Yes, that's you!
We stand on the dais to hear Aotearoa, God Defend New Zealand played in the knowledge that money has been well invested, proving the country is punching above its weight on the world stage. Coaches effectively become executives getting a return for you, their shareholders.
From memory, I was only exposed to one situation which I'd deem completely inappropriate in terms of a coach-athlete relationship. Our coach had a build-up of "tension" which was released faster and more ferociously than the emergency spillway on Lake Karapiro.
The profanities and decibel levels were shocking, but almost laughable. Aren't we all capable of losing it at some stage in our life though? We snap, and maybe this was one of those. Would it be classed as bullying, harassment, coercion or abuse? I wouldn't put it in that category.
A former coach of mine, Dick Tonks, used to talk about not being there as our friend. He used to say if we wanted to get trained, we'd turn up and he certainly wouldn't be telling us to turn up.
That's what high performance is about. The desire to do what it takes to be the best, to go out and win a gold medal. Serious demands need to be asked of yourself when you dive into your sporting dreams.
Yes, we sign up for tough. No, we don't sign up for intimidation. I know there is room to change sporting environments for the better. I'm all for inclusion, conversations, and questions to evoke that, but never forget, we are talking about "high performance".
- Eric Murray is a double Olympic rowing champion who went unbeaten for 69 elite races with partner Hamish Bond across eight seasons.