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Players’ union, rights activists urge IOC to shelve charter


The union, representing 85,000 athletes in more than 60 countries, was joined by athlete groups in the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany in urging the IOC to shelve the proposal. (AP Photo)

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A coalition of athletes, their global trade union, and human rights activists want the IOC to postpone an athlete charter due to be adopted next week.

The Olympic body’s Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration is set for approval at a meeting in Argentina to help safeguard athletes from issues including sexual and physical abuse, doping, and discrimination.

However, the World Players Association called on the International Olympic Committee on Friday to delay the project, claiming it failed to properly consult athletes or experts, and would “curtail fundamental athlete rights rather than protect them.”

“The IOC’s proposed declaration does not come close to respecting the internationally recognized human rights of athletes,” the union’s executive director, Brendan Schwab, said in a statement, adding it “relegates athlete rights beneath the rules of sport governing bodies, and fails to give the victims of human rights abuse access to an effective remedy.”

The union, representing 85,000 athletes in more than 60 countries, was joined by athlete groups in the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany in urging the IOC to shelve the proposal.

“We are not convinced that the athlete voice has been adequately sought out … let alone fully integrated,” the multi-nation athlete group said in an Oct. 2 letter to IOC president Thomas Bach published on Friday. “This is not a process that can be rushed to adoption in less than a year.”

The Sports and Rights Alliance activist group, which includes Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International, also claimed the IOC promoted the project without heading expert advice.

The Olympic project was steered by its in-house athlete commission which includes IOC members elected by their fellow competitors in ballots at Summer Games and Winter Games.

“This is one of those projects and programs that are coming out of maybe a more dark side in sport,” Kirsty Coventry, who represents athletes on the IOC executive board, told an Olympic conference in Buenos Aires.

“We all want sport to create change and to create opportunities for athletes and this is what we have come up with,” said the two-time Olympic swimming champion and sports minister for Zimbabwe.

Still, the SRA activist group said the IOC charter fell short of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and was “likely to mischaracterize or ignore certain rights.”

The players’ union also compared the IOC unfavorably with FIFA, which has made “binding policy commitments to human rights.”

Coventry spoke at the two-day Olympism In Action conference, where she was joined on stage by British former cyclist David Millar. He served a two-year ban for doping before joining the World Anti-Doping Agency athlete panel.

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Millar questioned the “hundreds of millions” the IOC spends on its Olympic Channel broadcasting project compared to a $16 million annual contribution to WADA’s operating budget.

“It’s up to the IOC to lead by example and give the athletes hope that they are doing their best to help the athletes,” Millar told the audience of international sports leaders. “And I’m not sure if that’s the case at the moment.”

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