New global body aims to give athletes a voice

Founders of a new global athletes' body say they will ensure their concerns aren't brushed aside by the IOC and WADA.

Callum Skinner speaks of a disconnect between the wishes of sports governing bodies and athletes in how their sports are run.   -  Reuters

The founders of a new global athletes’ body including Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Callum Skinner said Thursday they will ensure their concerns are no longer brushed aside by the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Skinner, the Briton who is one of the leading figures behind Global Athlete, told AFP there was a “disconnect” between the wishes of sports governing bodies and athletes in how their sports are run.

“It seems to be a constant issue that there is a disconnect between what the administrators want and what athletes want.

“Our aim is definitely to have voting rights on sports bodies and we are throwing the net wide.” Global Athlete, a non-profit organisation funded by donations, aims to give a greater voice to competitors in Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Skinner, a member of Britain’s victorious team pursuit trio at the 2016 Rio Olympics, spoke last year at an emergency summit at the White House to attack the IOC, accusing it of letting athletes down by refusing to heed calls for reform and greater input into decision-making.

He says the new body aims to “fill a void”, arguing that cyclists, track and field athletes and competitors in other Olympic sports currently lack the same representation afforded to, for example, professional footballers in Europe and NBA and NFL players.

Doping is one burning issue -- many sports people are angered at WADA’s decision to reintegrate Russia after it was alleged to have carried out state-sponsored doping -- but a fairer share of the revenue from international events is another.

One issue that Skinner says angers many Olympic competitors is the strict rules surrounding sponsorship that lock into place before and after a Games.

“I had a small Scottish sponsor which had helped me from the age of 16 to 25,” he told AFP. “But under the IOC rules, I wasn’t allowed to even mention the company on social media. So I think that is an issue where we could have a strong say.

“Blogs are also a source of income for some athletes but there are so many restrictions on filming at the Olympic Village or at venues. So that is another issue.” Global Athlete’s CEO Rob Koehler, a former WADA deputy director, said athletes were tired of being lectured to by administrators.

“The dissenting voices across all sports are sometimes turned aside and told they are undereducated and uninformed,” he told AFP.

“From my experience it is the total opposite - athletes get it, they are well informed, they are educated and they know exactly how things should be moving forward.”

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