Held once every two years, the Forum in 2017 set out to inform athletes about the IOC Athletes’ Commission’s new “All In” Strategy designed to strengthen the voice of the athletes within the Olympic Movement; to consult athletes on key issues such as anti-doping and athletes’ rights; and to empower athletes’ commissions and their chairs – at all levels – to become effective leaders.
Athletes break new ground at the International Athletes’ Forum
More than 100 athlete representatives from around the world gathered at The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) 8th International Athletes’ Forum to talk about representing and supporting athletes including, how to tackle doping, ensuring athletes’ rights, and empowering athletes’ commissions.
The three-day biannual event united athlete representatives and provided them with an opportunity to feedback on the IOC Athletes’ Commission’s new “All In” Strategy, and to give their thoughts on how the Olympic Movement can better support them across the globe.
“It’s time to reflect on everything achieved from the two-way dialogue over the previous three days,” declared IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Angela Ruggiero. “It speaks volumes that [these athletes] are all here working behind the scenes. [They’re] effecting change, and we must continue to be a part of the conversation. Athletes are stakeholders that should have an equal part in the conversation,” added Ruggiero as she summed up the key outcomes based on what was heard from athletes throughout the Forum. These included:
• A need for a strong network of athletes’ commissions that is united and connected
• A need for better, clearer and consistent communication within the network of athletes’ commissions and from the IOC Athletes’ Commission
• An objective for athletes’ commissions to be the true voice of athletes to ensure their credibility.
Outlining the next steps, Ruggiero continued: “From this feedback, we can see what is a priority for [athletes] and we’re going to ensure our Strategy implementation reflects this.”
Tackling key issues
The three-day Forum kicked off with a Q&A session with IOC President Thomas Bach – who was a member of the first-ever IOC Athletes’ Commission – to address pressing topics such as anti-doping, preparations for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games and athlete rights. The topics of gender equality, safeguarding from harassment and abuse, and communication between athletes and the IOC were also raised. Concluding the Q&A session, the IOC President turned the tables, asking athletes for their opinion on the future of eSports, and what they mean for the Olympic Movement, prompting a lively debate about health implications and commercial considerations surrounding this new trend.
Speaking of this interaction, IOC President Thomas Bach: “This was a great experience and gave many new ideas for the further development of the Games and the IOC.”
With athletes committed more than ever to the fight against doping, a lengthy panel discussion took place with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Athlete Committee Chair Beckie Scott and IOC Medical and Scientific Director Dr Richard Budgett. Emphasis was placed on the athletes’ rights and responsibilities regarding anti-doping protocols and recent steps taken, including the newly established Independent Testing Authority.
Some of the key concerns raised related to the appropriate level of sanctioning; standardisation across National Olympic Committees and International Federations, so that all athletes are treated equally; and applying the same standards to athletes’ entourage members, so that they too are held accountable.
Breaking new ground
The development of a ground-breaking Athlete Charter of Rights and Responsibilities was also top of the agenda, as the Charter’s Steering Committee held a first productive meeting during the Forum.
“This is going to be a document by the athletes, for the athletes,” said IOC Athletes’ Commission member Sarah Walker, who was confirmed as the Chair of the Steering Committee.
Key themes outlined in the Charter include communication, governance, marketing, integrity and clean sport, sports competition, career transition and well-being.
“We want a minimum standard of human rights for athletes which ensures they are protected – and we have to be ‘All In’ to give this the best opportunity of working,” she added.
Supporting athletes on their journey to the Games and beyond
The Forum, which included representatives from International Federations, Continental Associations, Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, WADA, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Olympians Association (WOA), proved ideal to give a sneak preview of athlete365 – an exciting new platform encompassing all IOC athlete-focused programmes and communication under one brand.