Golden 25: #16 -- Protecting Athletes

(ATR) Whether sexual abuse, doping or economic, the rights of Olympic athletes need more protectors.

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(ATR) In the wake of scandals over doping in Russia and gymnastics sex abuse in the U.S., it’s clear major institutions of Olympic sport have failed to protect the heart and soul of the Games: athletes.

The adoption of the Athletes’ Declaration this year by the IOC is a step toward establishing the rights of Olympians and the responsibilities of event organizers.

Kirsty Coventry, by virtue of chairing the IOC Athletes Commission, led the final formulation of the declaration this year. Now she becomes the highest profile advocate for the declaration and how it is implemented across the Olympics, from the IOC, to federations, NOCs and event organizers.

Coventry is now a member of the IOC Executive Board, so she is in a prime position to be an influence. She is also a member of the WADA board, which voted in September to provisionally restore certification with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. That decision is not universally supported by athletes Coventry represents.

Edwin Moses, chairman of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and twice an Olympic gold medalist, is among those who believe the IOC has shirked its responsibility to protect athletes.

IOC member Sergey Bubka is tasked with keeping an eye on the support system for athletes that has frequently been a dismal failure. The Entourage Commission he heads is responsible for setting standards for the care and treatment of Olympians.

In the fight against abuse of athletes, IOC member Prince Faisal of Jordan has worked on the creation of a tool kit to be used at the grassroots level. As chair of the Prevention of Harassment and Abuse in Sport working group, Faisal has a platform to push for safe sport in the Olympics.

Aly Raisman, one of the American gymnasts who suffered abuse, is likely to remain a powerful voice for safe sport -- louder perhaps than what IOC or other sport bodies have to say. Her influence will be most felt as the USOC and USA Gymnastics attempt to recover from the devastating scandal.

The Foundation for Global Sports Development, a U.S. non-profit, provides grants and other support for abuse victims as part of its mission to back fair play in sport. In 2019, the foundation releases its latest documentary film project. At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, could make waves. Dr. Steven Ungerleider and David Ulich of Sidewinder Films are executive producers.

Making waves for swimming federation FINA is the International Swimming League. Founded by Ukraine businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, the ISL is proposing to stage professional meets outside the FINA calendar with big prize money.

ISL is now suing FINA in U.S. court, alleging anti-trust violations. The case could set precedent in favor of athlete freedom to compete. Even as the lawsuit is filed, FINA has already proposed new events and increased prize purses. FINA President Julio Maglione insists athletes are at the center of interest for the federation.

"Show us the money," say swimmers Michael Andrew, Tom Shields and Katinka Hosszu, the plaintiffs. The lawsuit could affect athletes in a variety of sports worldwide.

The Around the Rings Golden 25 is the annual survey of individuals who will have the most influence for the Olympic Movement in the year ahead. First published in 1997, this is the 22nd edition.

Reported by Ed Hula.