Blanket restriction of freedom of expression unacceptable

Athleten Deutschland calls for Rule 50 to be changed.

Berlin, October 7th, 2020. Athletes should be able to take a stand for the values of a free and

democratic society at any time. For Athleten Deutschland the far-reaching and general

restriction of freedom of expression in the context of sporting competitions is therefore no

longer acceptable. A change of Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter is imperative. This is the

core of a detailed position that a group of athletes under the leadership of Athleten

Deutschland created in the last few weeks.

"Having carefully considered the subject matter - freedom of expression in general, the

values of sporting federations and the role of the athletes - we agreed that the existing

restrictions on freedom of expression imposed by Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter are grossly

overreaching. They are in clear contradiction to the proclaimed values of sporting federations

and are neither based on legal requirements nor on relevant internationally recognized

principles. We therefore call for a revision of the rule," says Marie-Catherine Arnold, member

of the German Olympic rowing team and a participant of the working group.

A revised implementation framework for Rule 50 would have to include, sufficiently

specified, least-intrusive and duly justified restrictions on the expression of opinion by

athletes. Such restrictions could include intentionally untruthful statements, the violation of

the rights of others, hate speech or explicit support for political parties or groups. The

current blanket ban cannot be justified by the internal declaration of "political neutrality".

"From the many conversations with the athletes it emerged that no one wants extremist

statements to appear or conflicts to be ignited on the sporting stage," says Johannes Herber,

CEO of Athleten Deutschland. "At the same time, there was a wide agreement that the

promotion of human rights and the positive effects of freedom of expression should outweigh

the fear of potential conflicts. We cannot deny those who face oppression the right to fight

against it. On the contrary, we should stand by their side".

In addition to an appropriate specification of Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter, Athleten

Deutschland outlines further measures in its position. These include, in addition to an

explicit and coherent commitment to human rights in the Olympic Charter and in the DOSB

Statutes, the accompanying introduction of a clearly defined sanctioning practice for

breaches and violations. A fair trial conducted by an independent body should be granted to

athletes suspected of having breached the limits of freedom of expression.

This position has been shared with the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) in an

effort to initiate the dialogue on this vital issue. "We hope for an exchange with the DOSB in

due time. It would be a strong signal for German sport, but also internationally, if athletes

and federations could find a common position on this important and complex issue," added

Johannes Herber.

Athleten Deutschland has also submitted its position to the IOC Athletes' Commission and looks forward to an early exchange on this basis.

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