IOC Needs Urgent Reform As It Places ‘Safety & Wellbeing Of Every Athlete At Risk’ – GA
Global Athlete, the umbrella body that represents competitors and campaigns for athlete rights, has called for urgent reform of the International Olympic Committee today after accusing the IOC of “placing the safety and wellbeing of every athlete at risk”.
In a statement that fires several damning accusations at the IOC over its handling of the Winter Olympics due to start in Beijing next month and on issues of health and safety, fairness, Covid-19 testing, human rights and freedom of expression, Global Athlete concludes:
“The grim state of these Olympics and the lack of athletes’ rights present an urgent call for reform of the IOC and for accountability for sport administrators. Reform must empower athletes to independently organize and to engage in collective bargaining. The outdated dictatorial approach of the IOC can no longer be tolerated. Athletes can no longer have their rights suppressed nor can they be expected to fuel the multi-billon dollar Olympic industry without compensation.”Global Athlete
The IOC stands accused of suppressing the Athlete Voice, in part because, says Global Athlete, it determines who will represent athletes through its own in-house committee rather than allowing athletes to select their own representatives and have a genuine Athlete Voice at the top table of the IOC.
The statement in full:
The IOC is Failing Athletes’ Rights
12 January 2022: With less than one month to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to press forward with hosting the Games, placing the safety and wellbeing of every athlete at risk.
Over the past two years, Covid-19 has taken lives, disrupted sport, sidelined athletes, and made the playing field unequal. This unpredictability has strained athletes, and the new Omicron variant has made the situation worse. Athletes who continue to compete and travel are at a higher risk of infection than ever before.
In addition to the stress of Covid-19, the IOC awarded the Games to China, a country recognized internationally for its human rights violations. This unfairly makes athletes pawns in a geopolitical fight. The IOC is to blame for putting athletes in this position; no athlete can be faulted for their choice to attend or not attend the Games.
Making matters worse, the IOC continues to suppress athlete speech, limiting their ability to speak out about human rights issues in China and elsewhere. Athletes are being used to strengthen and legitimize the Chinese Government, and simultaneously their voices are being silenced.
As athletes prepare to face unprecedented and unpredictable conditions in China, we condemn the IOC for failing to protect every athlete attending these Games, for failing to ensure equal access and fair competition, for forcing athletes into a political fight over human rights, and for suppressing athletes’ freedom of expression.
Health and Safety:
With countries around the world struggling to contain the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the IOC fails to make athletes’ safety a priority. The IOC is:
- refusing to provide athletes single room accommodations, increasing the risk of infection,
- forcing athletes to sign Covid-19 liability waivers to assume all risk for their participation at the Games; these waivers wrongfully absolve the IOC and Beijing 2022 of all responsibility for keeping athletes safe,
- not providing details of quarantine facilities,
- not providing details on the type of mental health and wellbeing support offered.
The integrity of competition and a fair qualification process have been undermined by the IOC’s continue-at-all-costs attitude and lack of flexibility.
- The IOC, and by extension the International Federations, have shown limited flexibility in qualification standards for those athletes who missed qualifying events due to event cancellation, travel restrictions, and/or illness.
- The IOC’s rigid competition schedule at the Games will undermine the integrity of the competition, and many events will not feature the best athletes. By insisting on a rigid competition schedule, the IOC has placed the interests of broadcast rights holders over the interests of athlete safety and fair competition.
Athletes’ competition fate is placed in the hands those administrating Covid-19 testing.
- The IOC has not put in place independent doping control style protocols to ensure that Covid-19 testing is secure and free from manipulation. Athletes have little reason to trust the integrity of the process.
Human Rights / Freedom of Expression:
Freedom of expression does not exist in China.
- China has a proven record of silencing those who speak out against the State. IOC Rule 50.2 continues to punish athletes who use the podium or the playing field to peacefully protest. This IOC rule combined with the opaque Chinese system places every athlete at risk.
- With no guaranteed protection by the IOC or the Chinese authorities, we strongly advise athletes not to speak up about human rights issues while in China. The disappearance of Peng Shuai is a glaring example of the type of the risk athletes face when they speak up.
The grim state of these Olympics and the lack of athletes’ rights present an urgent call for reform of the IOC and for accountability for sport administrators. Reform must empower athletes to independently organize and to engage in collective bargaining. The outdated dictatorial approach of the IOC can no longer be tolerated. Athletes can no longer have their rights suppressed nor can they be expected to fuel the multi-billon dollar Olympic industry without compensation.