John BowdenAugust 29 - John Bowden (pictured), formerly one of the country's top middle-distance runners, has been appointed as the performance manager of Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ), it has been announced.

Bowden, a former sub-four minute miler, represented New Zealand at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh as well as four World Cross Country Championships.

After hanging up his spikes he coached New Zealand teams at Olympic Games and World Championships.

New Zealand finished 24th in the medals table at last year's Paralympics in Beijing winning a total of 12 medals, including five gold.

PNZ chief executive Fiona Pickering said the role gave her organisation a more high performance focus in the build-up to the London 2012 Paralympics, which start exactly three years from today.

She said: "We are excited that John is joining our high performance team.

"Supporting our coaches is a high priority and having someone with John's coaching credentials, experience and passion for developing and growing people will enhance our coaches and in turn give our athletes the best opportunity to perform."

Bowden resigned last week from Athletics New Zealand's (ANZ) Cross Country and Road Committee, of which he was convenor.

His resignation has been in the spotlight following the positive dope test involving New Zealand marathon runner Liza Hunter-Galvan, who has been banned for two years after she failed a test for the blood boosting drug Erythropoietin (EPO).

Bowden's Committee iinitially declined to select Hunter-Galvan for the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics and again at the 2008 Beijing Games.

She then challenged the decisions, winning entry to both teams after the threat of a legal battle in 2004 and then used lawyers to win selection for Beijing.

Bowden suspects strongly he was blamed by many within athletics for the high profile episode which attracted a lot of unfavourable publicity.

He was convenor not only of the Cross Country and Road Committee but also the Track and Field Committee for Athletics NZ - but was voted off the latter at around the same time as Hunter-Galvan was winning her way back onto the team for Beijing.

Bowden said: "Strangely enough, I got voted off the committee that had nothing to do with the marathon - the Track and Field Committee.

"The Board [of Athletics NZ] always supported me but I think it was the Hunter-Galvan business that got me voted off.

"I think some people blamed me for not wanting her - but I always maintained she didn't have the qualities needed for a good finish at the Olympics.

"If you look at the results, I was right.

"Selection is never just about qualifying times - otherwise what do you need selectors for?"

But he has refused to criticise Hunter-Galvan following her positive test.

Bowden said: "I've got mixed emotions.

"It's sad, really.

"It's sad for her and it's sad for the sport and I am also sad I didn't get a lot of support from the sport, other than from the Board."