Global Athlete Year-End Message Celebrates Successes Of A COVID-Torn 2020 & Puts Olympic Bosses, WADA, CAS & Others On Notice In List Of 2021 Campaigns
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), Olympic autonomy, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) are among organisations that will continue to feel the weight of growing athlete demands for change in 2021, according to a year-end message from representative body Global Athlete to those it serves.
In a year-end message to celebrate its successes in the oddest of sporting seasons, the COVID-19 virus having dictated widespread cancellation of events across all sports, Global Athlete also highlights the issues it will continue to campaign on in 2021. They include calls for greater athlete access, representation and revenue for athletes at the IOC and in Olympic sport and its governance, greater transparency at WADA and the CAS and an insistence that athletes must be able to exercise their human rights, including the right to protest peacefully, and reform of Olympic Charter Rule 50.
With a demand for an overhaul of the way Olympic revenue is distributed, Global Athlete notes:
“The Status Quo is No Longer Acceptable: Global Athlete, in partnership with Ryerson University and the Ted Rogers School of Management, announced the results of a study on Olympic Commercialization and Player Compensation. Key outcomes of the study highlighted:
A mere 4.1% of IOC revenue goes directly to athletes.
The future of the Olympic Movement must include the ability for athletes to collectively bargain.
The IOC needs to prioritize athletes in its funding model over external and internal entities.
The IOC and other members of the Olympic Movement need to be more transparent in their financial reporting.
On Athlete Rights, Welfare and Representation, it notes:
“As a part of Global Athlete’s listening exercise, we released the results of a survey on athlete rights, welfare, and representation. The survey, which engaged 491 athletes from 48 countries, representing all continents, and from 40 summer and 16 winter sports, concluded that:
Athletes’ rights need to be enhanced
Athletes need to be appropriately compensated
Athletes need collective independent representation
Fear of retribution for speaking up is a top concern of athletes
Para athletes need classification rules to be improved
WADA, too, is reminded that further pressure is planned when it comes to athletes’ calls for the anti-doping watchdog to adopt reforms that would make it a truly independent body, that model to also include greater athlete involvement in the policy and decision-making process.
The Successes, Including Olympic Cancellation At A Time Of COVID-19
Global Athlete highlighted among positives the outcomes and processes influenced and driven by athletes, including the International Olympic Committee’s postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; the IOC’s suspension of the Belarus National Olympic Committee; an acknowledgment from Olympic bosses that the Olympic Charter Rule 50 is out of date and out of touch with the wishes of athletes who want to exercise their human right to take a knee and stage other forms of peaceful protest in support of issues such as racial equity and social justice; athlete-driven pressure for the president of the International Weightlifting Federation to stand down in the face of allegations of corruption and fraud, an issue with relevance to other Olympic sports, including swimming; and in the United States, two significant moves against autonomy of the Olympic Movement on issues of criminality, namely the adoption of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act and the adoption of the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020.
With a nod to the one development that spoke to all the above., Global Athlete stated that it was ” … thrilled to support the official launch of the independent athlete led Athletics Association. The Association’s objectives are to provide athletes with a meaningful voice, to fight for stronger athletes’ rights and embrace an athletes first approach, all of which are critical to athlete safety and wellbeing”.
“Where Do We Go From Here”, asks Global Athlete before providing this answer to athletes: “We applaud you for your continual push for change, but the reality is that some things take longer than others. Thankfully, athletes and athlete groups have been relentless; we will not back down.”
On the list of campaigns ongoing and to come are the execution of Iranian Wrestler Navid Afkari and the work with other Iranian athletes, supported by Global Athlete, to seek justice for a man murdered by his country’s government. The IOC’s attempts to advocate for mercy fell on the deaf ears of an Iranian regime that has been called out by many other nations around the world on a number of fronts in recent years.
Fairness for Wheelchair Basketball Athletes, transparency and open sessions in the RUSADA CAS Hearings; further reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – including a call from athletes for the anti-doping watchdog to embrace true independence and include athlete representatives in the realm of anti-doping policy and decision making; human rights in general and rights, welfare and deeper, more professional representation for athletes; and a far greater share of the revenue distributed by the IOC on the back of the show provided by athletes.
The Global Athlete Year-End Letter In Full:
This has been an extremely challenging year for all of us with global sport coming to a halt because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, in the face of uncertainty, sadness, and adversity, we have been inspired by the enduring strength and perseverance of the athlete community.
Your voice is more important than ever. Athletes across sports and across borders are holding administrators accountable and standing up for their rights, even in these turbulent times. Global Athlete is proud to work with athletes and athlete groups around the world for collective change. Here are some key highlights from 2020 that show the ways your voice has impacted – and in some cases, rocked – the sporting community:
Postponement of the Olympic Games: As a result of calls to action from athletes and athlete groups, on March 24th the IOC was pressured to immediately postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games instead of waiting four weeks to make a decision, as they had previously said they would do.
Suspension of the Belarus National Olympic Committee: The newly formed and athlete led Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) organized public campaigns, a peaceful protest in Lausanne, and a dossier on punishing athletes for peacefully protesting in Belarus. Thanks to the work of the BSSF, a partial suspension of the Belarus National Olympic Committee was issued by the IOC.
Olympic Charter Rule 50 – Podium Protest: With athletes around the world taking a knee and taking a stand for racial equity and social justice, the IOC has been forced to reconsider the archaic Rule 50; the long-standing rule punishing all forms of expression and protest by athletes at the Olympic Games. Although the IOC has committed to re-evaluating the rule, there is still work to be done to ensure that the changes prioritize every athlete’s fundamental right to freedom of expression.
International Weightlifting Federation: Athletes successfully rallied together through public statements and a global petition to demand that the IWF President stand down while an independent investigation was conducted. The investigation subsequently exposed widespread anti-doping corruption within the sport, and the President was removed permanently. Athletes are now demanding more representation on the IWF Executive Board.
Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act: With the support and backing of athletes, the United States Government signed into law the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. This act combats doping in sport by allowing the investigation and prosecution of personnel, corrupt administrators, criminal traffickers, and others who perpetuate doping networks. It safeguards athletes by recognizing that the focus must be on the entourage, personnel, and administrators.
Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020: Led by athletes, this U.S. law establishes safeguards to protect amateur athletes from abuse, including sexual abuse, by coaches and employees in U.S. Olympic and Paralympic sports. The new law will lead the reform process of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, including more athlete representation and independence.
Athletics Association: Global Athlete was thrilled to support the official launch of the independent athlete led Athletics Association. The Association’s objectives are to provide athletes with a meaningful voice, to fight for stronger athletes’ rights and embrace an athletes first approach, all of which are critical to athlete safety and wellbeing.
Where Do We Go From Here:
We applaud you for your continual push for change, but the reality is that some things take longer than others. Thankfully, athletes and athlete groups have been relentless; we will not back down. Here are some of our areas of focus as we move into 2021:
Iranian Wrestler Navid Afkari Execution: Navid was scheduled to be executed on 9 September 2020 for peacefully protesting the Iranian regime. Iran used Navid’s popularity as an athlete to set an example and to send a terrifying message to other would-be protesters.
Athlete groups, along with human rights groups and others, demanded the execution be halted. We also demanded that sport leaders, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and United World Wrestling, threaten formal and public sanctions should Iran carry out the execution. Neither group took decisive action and Navid was executed on 12 September 2020. This tragic event highlights the urgent need for the IOC and IPC to embed human rights principles into the Olympic Charter and to recognize their duty to care for their athletes. We mourn Navid’s death and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family.
Iranian athletes, supported by Global Athlete, are continuing to seek justice for Navid and to have the Iran National Olympic Committee suspended. A government that executes their athletes has no place in sport.
Wheelchair Basketball Athletes: In late 2019, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) unilaterally changed athlete classification rules, just nine months before the scheduled Paralympic Games. Athletes who had already qualified for the Games were deemed ineligible.
Athletes and athlete groups mobilized and issued a joint statement demanding that the IPC and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) reinstate all wheelchair basketball players who have rightfully qualified for the Paralympic Games. To date, no action has been taken to remedy the situation.
Athletes are continuing to pressure the IPC and IWBF to delay the new classification system to allow all qualified athletes to compete in the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.
RUSADA CAS Hearings: Athletes and athlete groups have called for transparent and open hearings during the RUSADA proceedings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Athletes believe that transparency throughout the process would lead to increased understanding of and confidence in any decision rendered by CAS, and thus the anti-doping system more generally. While WADA agreed to a CAS open hearing, other parties declined the request and the hearings were conducted in secret.
This once again highlights the need for more independence and transparency at CAS.
WADA Reforms: For over three years, athletes and athlete groups have been demanding significant reforms at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Recently, 14 National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) and 14 Athlete groups came together to collectively call for more athlete and NADO representation and engagement in WADA governance, while also highlighting the critical need for the agency to move toward greater independence, transparency, and accountability. These calls for reform are supported by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the largest governmental funder of WADA. In support of athletes, the ONDCP has threatened to withdraw WADA funding should meaningful reforms not be implemented.
Athletes will continue to push for more meaningful reform at WADA.
Global Athlete and Human Rights: This year, Global Athlete worked with several research partners to support the need for increased advocacy and action on the issue of Athletes’ rights in sport.
IOC’s Revenue Distribution – The Status Quo is No Longer Acceptable: Global Athlete, in partnership with Ryerson University and the Ted Rogers School of Management, announced the results of a study on Olympic Commercialization and Player Compensation. Key outcomes of the study highlighted:
- A mere 4.1% of IOC revenue goes directly to athletes.
- The future of the Olympic Movement must include the ability for athletes to collectively bargain.
- The IOC needs to prioritize athletes in its funding model over external and internal entities.
- The IOC and other members of the Olympic Movement need to be more transparent in their financial reporting.
Athlete Rights, Welfare and Representation: As a part of Global Athlete’s listening exercise, we released the results of a survey on athlete rights, welfare, and representation. The survey, which engaged 491 athletes from 48 countries, representing all continents, and from 40 summer and 16 winter sports, concluded that:
- Athletes’ rights need to be enhanced
- Athletes need to be appropriately compensated
- Athletes need collective independent representation
- Fear of retribution for speaking up is a top concern of athletes
- Para athletes need classification rules to be improved
Athlete Perspective on the Anti-Doping System: Part II of our athlete survey provided feedback on national and international anti-doping programs. The results indicated:
- A clear majority of athletes feel the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) does not work independently, while most have trust in the independence of their National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs).
- Athletes need increased representation at WADA and within their NADOs.
Global Athlete continues to listen to athletes and to speak truth to power in the interest of all athletes and their rights.
Global Athlete – By Athletes, For Athletes – December 16, 2020