Johnny Watterson: Irish boxing hardly on front foot in search for author of damning document

All-out attack on Ireland’s high-performance programme should concentrate minds

I put a question to Irish boxing this week. I asked if there would be an investigation into the well organised and concerted effort to undermine high-performance boxing in Ireland.

You might have seen the Position Paper, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, five-page ‘consultation’ document with unnamed coaches, unnamed administrators, unnamed members and a conclusion, all laced heavily with arsenic. The answer that came back about mounting an investigation into who pulled the sophisticated stunt was ‘there could be’.

On the phone I just didn’t feel the fulminating outrage over what had happened and so far there has been very little public utterances from the association about it, no press statement, no follow-up, next to nothing from official boxing, which has said it discussed the document at a board meeting.

I could be wrong but the view seemed to be that the 1,500-plus words of car-crash analysis was unsigned, so that was the end of the matter and there was nothing else to do about it.

I must say, I felt that attitude slightly defeatist. We are talking about an attempted sabotage of this year’s Olympic boxing programme and all the world-class coaches in it.

Another way of looking at it is not that there is nothing that can be done but that there is plenty to do. Here is what boxing could do: they could go back to their laptops or laptop and look at who sent them the document. Then ask that person who it was sent it to them.

Obviously, at least one person at the board meeting had the document sent to them or they would not have discussed it and they would not have known its contents.

In fact, according to chief executive Fergal Carruth all board members said they had no hand in composing the document, which was falsely claiming to a be a Position Paper.

If the document was printed out on hard copy and sent to the board members so that all could read it, then where did the hard copy come from? Who printed it out and how did the person who printed it out come by the document? It doesn’t take Robbie Coltrane’s ‘Cracker’ to figure out just a few steps back.

It is not, apparently, all that outrageously difficult to originate where a document came from if you have some technical savvy. To do that you need to understand that there are footprints left behind as a document in an email form vanishes from the screen.

Hands up, a computer illiterate, me. But there are people who are not illiterate and who actually understand what takes place when a document is created and modified and the send button is hit and the information flows through the Wi-Fi to someone someplace else in an email form.

They, the people who know about footprints, call them the properties of the document and if you know what keys to bash on your keyboard you can find them easily enough.

I am looking at the properties of a document right now. That is, the properties of HPU SWOT ANALYSIS 3 finalversion.[16848] a la ‘The Position’ paper.

Pretty boring stuff.

But over on the right hand side of the screen it is less boring than the rest. Over there are the properties, which tells you the size of the document both in words and bytes. It also says how many pages it will consume if you wish to print it. Five, apparently.

Underneath that are more details under other headings and two of those are when the document was created and modified. Both took place on the same day and at the same time, 8.10pm on February 21st. It also tells us it was last printed on February 11th at 10.40pm.

These things are all very easy to come by if you know what you are doing. The footprints I have left behind on the computer over the last 10 years and never knew a thing about them. Morto.

But that’s not the end of the information. There are another few lines of data about HPU SWOT ALALYSIS 3 finalversion.[16848] al la ‘The Position Paper’ under different headings.

The name of the author, a Microsoft Office user, is not listed. But the final piece of data indicates who it was last modified the document. Blimey, there is a name.

It is the name of a well-known member of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA).

We are not claiming there is anything illegal here. But if the IABA wishes to give assurances that an independent investigation will be held into the origination of the hugely damaging ‘Position Paper’ of their Government-funded high-performance unit, they know where to come for the name. A starting point?

If Sport Ireland, who provide most of the funding for high-performance boxing, want to find out more about a starting point, they know who to bell up or even send an email.

Because, I must say this week it feels like someone is doing a SWOT analysis on the association itself to see how rigorously it supports its boxers and their coaches and to examine what structures are in place or can be put in place to support and encourage and protect them three months out from Tokyo. And, how far they are prepared to go to uncover a scandal.