The 8th IOC International Athletes’ Forum kicked off with a Q&A session with IOC President Thomas Bach and discussions on responsibilities in the fight against doping, as the IOC Athletes’ Commission introduced its new Strategy to the global athletes’ network.

More than 100 athlete representatives gathered at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland this morning for the opening day of the 8th International Athletes’ Forum. The biannual event this year is providing the global athletes’ network with an opportunity to feed back on the IOC Athletes’ Commission’s new Strategy, and to give their thoughts on how the Olympic Movement can better support athletes across the globe.

Following a welcome coffee and group photo, IOC AC Chair Angela Ruggiero introduced IOC President Thomas Bach, who kicked off the Forum by giving an overview of the current issues most relevant to athletes and the Olympic Movement, in particular the recent steps taken in the fight against doping.

IOC President fields athletes’ questions
President Bach, who was a member of the first-ever IOC Athletes’ Commission – and has been present in each of the seven previous forums – then took part in a two-way, open discussion with athlete representatives lasting nearly three hours.

‘A great influence’ on decision-making
In addition to anti-doping, the topics of gender equality, safeguarding from harassment and abuse, and communication between athletes and the IOC were raised, while the IOC President closed with a question of his own for the athletes on the future of eSports, and what it means for the Olympic Movement, which prompted a lively debate about health implications and commercial considerations surrounding this new trend.

“I learned a lot,” said President Bach of the Q&A session, “and you can be sure that your questions, ideas and comments will have a great influence on the decisions that we’re taking on key issues and new developments.”

A forward-thinking new Strategy
The afternoon commenced with an outline of the new IOC AC Strategy by Angela Ruggiero, who appealed for feedback from participants on what the commission is doing right or wrong, and what they should prioritise.

“We’re looking for a two-way conversation over the next three days so that we know what to do to support you, and you know what to do to support us,” she said, before outlining the purpose of the Forum to share ideas and best practices, and ultimately, to help athletes. “I think that’s why we’re all here,” she added.

Athletes more committed than ever in fight against doping
The most important subject for the world’s athletes is protection of clean athletes , and the afternoon session was devoted to this crucial topic. After an introduction from IOC AC vice-chair Tony Estanguet about key roles and responsibilities within the anti-doping ecosystem, a panel of specialists including WADA Athlete Committee chair Beckie Scott were invited to the stage to field questions from athlete representatives.

Some of the key concerns raised related to the appropriate level of sanctioning; standardisation across NOCs and IFs, so that all athletes are treated equally; and applying the same standards to athletes’ entourages so that they too are held accountable.

Scott also highlighted “a need to protect and support as much as possible the athletes who are giving information in the fight against doping. And WADA’s ‘Speak Up!’ programme that is generating a huge response.”

Finally participants were given a detailed explanation of the Independent Testing Authority (ITA), with speeches by founding board member Kirsty Coventry, WADA Director, European Regional Office and International Federations Relations, Benjamin Cohen, and IOC Medical & Scientific Director Dr Richard Budgett ensuring a variety of perspectives regarding this new step in the fight against doping.