Wrap-up of Athletes’ Commission discussions in Buenos Aires

On the occasion of the Youth Olympic Games 2018, myself and the other IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) members held our latest meeting in Buenos Aires to discuss issues and developments relating to global athlete welfare and representation.

Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration
At the top of the agenda was the launch of the historic Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration (Athletes’ Declaration). For the first time, athletes’ rights and responsibilities within the Olympic Movement have been outlined and collated into one document – the result of more than 12 months’ work involving athletes and stakeholders from across the Olympic Movement.

The Athletes’ Declaration Steering Committee has been dedicated to producing a document that supports and serves athletes the world over, and we’d like to thank the thousands of you who took part in the survey, providing vital information that helped shape the Athletes’ Declaration.

Continuing the emphasis on platforms for athlete voices, we are very excited to begin the planning process for the International Athletes’ Forum 2019. Looking to build on the success of the 2017 Forum, the aim is to include more athlete representatives than ever at the next edition.

Our Commission also discussed the Athlete Engagement Strategy and confirmed the main objectives: Support, Excite and Inspire. Over the last few weeks, athletes from a range of sports and countries have been interviewed on the implementation plan to deliver these objectives. The Athlete Engagement Strategy will be discussed at the International Athletes’ Forum with the athlete representatives for delivery in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020.

RUSADA’s reinstatement
Following comprehensive deliberation of the recommendation by the Agency’s independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC), the WADA Executive Committee voted to reinstate RUSADA as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code – which was a motion carried by nine votes to two. This decision was subject to full agreement on all points outlined in the RUSADA “Roadmap to Compliance” document (read more here).

Following a series of phones calls and many conversations within our Commission on this topic, the in-person meeting in Buenos Aires gave us another opportunity to sit together and discuss again the outcomes of the decision. We discussed the various opinions shared by different Athletes’ Commissions and athletes from around the world. Our members acknowledged that the Commission represents all athletes in the Olympic Movement, and that there are sometimes different views among different athlete groups on certain topics. This question is one of them.

We believe that we are now in a much stronger position, as we have clear deadlines for the deliverables. Should the Russians not meet the requirements within the deadline set by WADA, the new International Standards allow WADA to impose sanctions immediately. With access to the historical samples a comprehensive review can take place. The ball is now in Russia’s court. In addition, Russian athletes can now be tested more often and more effectively by RUSADA. This is an important aspect for all of us. I would also like to stress the fact that the eligibility to compete has not changed for any Russian athletes because of the WADA decision.

The importance of close collaboration with the WADA Athlete Committee was highlighted for the best interest of the athletes, keeping in mind we have a shared interest in protecting clean athletes. In this respect, we have renewed our offer to the WADA Athlete Committee Chair for both bodies to sit down and discuss the different opinions and best way forward.

Healthy minds
Also discussed was mental health among elite athletes. It is becoming increasingly apparent that mental health for every individual is a pressing issue. Our Commission is determined to increase awareness of these issues and spread the message to International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) that mental health should not and cannot be ignored, and work has begun on developing a unified, evidence-informed approach to mental health assessment and management among athletes.

The Athletes’ Commission will be present at the next Mental Health Consensus meeting in Lausanne in November, where experts will join together to critically analyse current science and clinical practice around mental illness. Going forward, the aim is to present recommendations for a unified approach to mental health that ensures accessible, effective and interdisciplinary management of these issues for elite athletes.

Stable foundations
As we continue to support athletes off the field of play, we are excited to announce the launch of the Athlete365 Business Accelerator: a new partnership with social business experts Grameen Creative Lab, which was founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who has been engaging with athletes here in Buenos Aires. The new programme will empower athletes and Olympians to become entrepreneurs while competing or after retirement, with a focus on assisting them with a dual career and the transition to a career after sport.

A number of changes to the IOC Athletes’ Commission election procedure were discussed, with the aim of improving the process for NOCs to put forward candidates, in order to continue to ensure that athletes are well represented and have access to prominent, influential platforms to voice their views. Finally, we presented updates from our meetings with other Athletes’ Commissions from across the Olympic Movement, which aim to strengthen communication, support and cooperation between Athletes’ Commissions globally.

Kind regards,

Kirsty Coventry