Kirsty Coventry, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission and one of a 20-strong athlete representative Steering Committee, showcased the ground-breaking Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration (Athletes’ Declaration) during the first-ever Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 5 October.

“Over the summer, an astonishing 4,292 of you (elite athletes) from 190 countries and more than 120 sports disciplines, contributed to the creation of the Athletes’ Declaration. This is an amazing achievement and one which we can all be proud of,” commented Coventry following the announcement.

The process

Members of the Steering Committee have met almost monthly by video conference, juggling time zones to deliver the project.  In addition to being athlete representatives within their respective sporting organisations, the Steering Committee members are highly accomplished athletes, having collectively competed at 44 Olympic or Paralympic Games, winning 37 medals; and 85 world championships, winning 61 medals.

An athlete-driven initiative, and part of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Strategy, it has been developed by athletes for athletes through a comprehensive and inclusive process in collaboration with stakeholders across the Olympic Movement. Its overarching goal is to further support athletes — no matter their sport, age, gender or nationality, by outlining a common set of aspirational rights and responsibilities for athletes within the Olympic Movement.

Covering topics such as anti-doping, integrity, clean sport, career, communications, governance, discrimination, due process and protection from harassment and abuse, the Athletes’ Declaration will be presented to the IOC Session for adoption and reference in the Olympic Charter, signifying its important status within the Olympic Movement.

An inclusive process

“I’m really excited to be part of the process that brings athletes the support and protection they deserve,” said Sarah Walker, a BMX cyclist from New Zealand, IOC Athletes’ Commission member and Chair of the Steering Committee for the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration.

A two-stage athlete survey has been at the core of this process − firstly with Athletes’ Commissions and athlete representatives, to obtain in-depth and quality feedback from athlete representatives globally. The results of this first survey shaped the first draft of the Declaration, as well as the second-stage survey. Additionally, and in parallel, there has been stakeholder consultation to ensure that the document is meaningful and has a positive impact for athletes globally.

Learn more about this exciting global journey and its inclusive consultation with athletes, from its initiation in early 2017, through its various stages, here

They shared – we listened.

The extensive athlete survey examined all aspects of the draft document, incorporating 19 rights and 16 responsibilities, which was released for consultation at the end of May. Athletes shared what was most important to them, ensuring their collective voices were fully represented in the process.

The survey asked athletes to indicate how important specific rights and responsibilities were to them as individuals, as well as inviting them to contribute further ideas. Organised around five key themes of sports competition, integrity and clean sport, safeguarding, governance and communication, and career and marketing, to address areas of most interest to athletes, all were ranked as at least “important” by more than 90% of respondents.

Similarly, more than 90% of athletes indicated that the five overarching responsibilities were important to uphold: to respect the rights of all athletes; to uphold the Olympic values; to promote sport as a role model; to respect the solidarity principle in sport; and to adhere to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, namely Principles 4 and 6.

The results also reflect the significance of the initiative to athletes:

  • 89% of participants said they would be likely to recommend that other athletes support the Athletes’ Declaration
  • 75% would like to stay involved with the project
  • 71% would like to be recognised as contributors to the Athletes’ Declaration

Respondent demographics were also well balanced:

  • 50% male, 48% female and 2% preferred not to answer or indicated “other”
  • 68% active athletes
  • 61% aged between 18-34

Importantly, the strength and depth of this data means that, in addition to being collated to form the forthcoming Athletes’ Declaration, it will also be used in many other ways to support athlete needs and interests in the coming months and years, and to further strengthen services and communications to athletes.

The first version of the Athletes’ Declaration will be formally presented by the Steering Committee for approval at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 8-9 October and will be subsequently published on Athlete365.