New Movement Aims for Louder Athlete Voice

(ATR) Olympic cycling champion Callum Skinner tells ATR why the Global Athlete organization is needed.

(ATR) Rio 2016 Olympic cycling champion Callum Skinner tells Around the Rings that a new movement launched this week aims to give athletes "a meaningful seat at the table" to shape the future of sport.

Skinner is playing a leading role with Global Athlete, an organization that wants to take advantage of a growing dissatisfaction among athletes over an imbalance of power between them and sports administrators.

Former WADA Deputy Director General Rob Koehler has been brought in as Director General of the new movement.

The immediate goal is to mobilize athletes worldwide to lobby for change.

"It’s not just anti-doping issues in sport. There’s issues about welfare, there’s issues about athlete’s commercial rights within the game, there’s quite a bit we can get our teeth stuck into," Skinner said in an interview with ATR.

"Whether you come from the east or the west, whatever continent, I feel like certainly there is some common ground so let’s keep building that momentum in terms of mobilization."

While Skinner says the biggest issue will be determined by "whatever common ground we manage to find between our members," he believes that the widespread disapproval among athletes of how the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have dealt with the Russian doping scandal would be a good place to start.

"[WADA President] Craig Reedie came out and said it might have been easier for WADA to cut its teeth if this nation had been a smaller nation. I think that’s really disappointing to hear," Skinner said. "What I believe he’s saying is that if it had been a smaller country we would have got a little bit control of them but because Russia is such a big, powerful, influential sporting nation they were met with constant compromise. That’s a unifying message we can get behind moving forward and into the future that includes efforts which are fair to all the nations big and small."

Another short term goal is to address the growing adversarial relationship between WADA and the athletes.

"I think if their communication strategy had been a lot better and a bit more collaborative then we might be in a better place today. But it’s been so divisive and so firm it’s really quite difficult to move forward from that point," Skinner tells ATR. "They keep pitching the outcome with the Russians as being a great win for clean sport but I guess my response to that is ‘is it really such a big win for clean sport when you’ve alienated hundreds of athletes in the process?’"

Global Athlete is being funded initially by the non-profit group FairSport along with other individual donors but they will have no say in the decision making or operations of the organization.

Besides being an independent body, Global Athlete is welcoming all athletes who are in Olympic and Paralympic sports not just athletes who have been to the Olympics or Paralympics, which Skinner says sets it apart from the IOC Athletes Commission and IPC Athletes’ Council.

The IOC Athletes Commission released a statement, which read in part "It’s disappointing that this group seems to believe that none of us care about athletes and that none of us do a good job for athletes if we are part of the Olympic movement".

In response Skinner, who is a member of the UK Anti-Doping Athletes Commission and the British Olympic Association Athletes Commission, says "we might have taken them by surprise" but he believes there is room for everyone moving forward.

"We want to work with them and we want to enhance the good work that they do. We genuinely think there’s space for both of us in there. I’ve spoken to a couple of members of that Athletes commission and I think slowly we’re starting to win them in."

Written by Gerard Farek

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