“The declaration constitutes an abject failure on the part of the IOC to effectively represent the best interests of athletes.” – Brendan Schwab, Executive Director, World Players Association.

The World Players Association today denounced the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) attempt, as a private organisation, to unilaterally redefine the internationally recognised human rights of the very people who sit at the heart of sport – the athletes.

In response to yesterday’s adoption of the “Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration (Athletes’ Declaration)” by the 133th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, World Players Association Executive Director Brendan Schwab said the following:

“Athletes are people first, and sportspersons a distant second. They are entitled to the same inalienable rights of everyone as recognised by foundational international instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, the IOC, as a multinational multi-billion dollar business, has a duty to act proactively to respect those very rights, and not downgrade them as a mandatory condition of an athlete’s involvement in sport.

“Rather than embracing the opportunity to respect athletes and legitimise international sports law by embedding their human rights, the IOC has chosen through the Athletes’ Declaration to formally relegate athlete rights below unilaterally-imposed sporting rules. The document does more to boost the IOC’s grip over athletes who dare challenge human rights abuses and other injustices in world sport. It constitutes an abject failure on the part of the IOC and the IOC Athletes’ Commission to effectively represent the best interests of athletes by ensuring their fundamental rights are upheld within the Olympic Movement.”

The announcement of the Athletes’ Declaration came despite calls by the Sport & Rights Alliance, World Players and national athlete bodies from Canada, Great Britain, Germany and the United States to postpone its adoption. In separate letters, the athlete unions and bodies, and the NGO and trade union coalition, detailed their concerns over the limited nature of the consultative process and the IOC’s failure to acknowledge its leverage over the internationally recognised human rights of athletes and others affected by sport.

World Players, the SRA, and the athlete bodies further urged the IOC to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy and to undertake a human rights impact assessment before moving forward with the Athletes’ Declaration. This would be the same process recently successfully undertaken by international sports bodies such as FIFA, UEFA and the Commonwealth Games Federation and accords with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“UNGPs”).

“World Players and our affiliated unions are carefully reviewing the content of the Athletes’ Declaration. We are committed to exploring all options to ensure that the Athletes’ Declaration does not expose athletes to further risk of harm. Moreover, we are exploring all options to hold the Olympic Movement to account for any negative athlete rights impacts. We remain committed to working with the Olympic Movement to embed the human rights of athletes in world sport in accordance with international law and the UNGPs,” Schwab continued.