Players unions condemn statements WADA chairman
Friday 27 July
Top representatives from international athletes associations and player unions from around the world held a press conference in London on Thursday ahead of the Olympic Games to respond to anti-athlete association comments made by WADA Chairman John Fahey.
They also gave details on the initiative to establish a world federation of athlete associations under the banner of UNI Sport PRO Global Union. The participants included FIFPro (football), FICA (cricket), IRPA (rugby), EU Athletes (European Athletes), SNB (French basketball), ABP (Spanish basketball), and HSF (Danish handball).
The speakers universally condemned WADA Chairman Fahey’s anti-athlete statements made during a WADA Foundation Board meeting. Fahey stated that he in ‘no way saw athlete associations role as being representative of sportsmen and women', and he urged all members 'not to give them any oxygen.’
Ian Smith, representing the International Federation of Cricketers Associations (FICA): ‘WADA Chairman Fahey’s anti-athlete statements are backward and unacceptable. We condemn them in the strongest terms. They are a throwback to a bygone era of paternalistic governance by aging men in blazers who are threatened by the idea of athletes being organized and actually having a say in how sport is run. We now have a clearer view of what type of thinking we are dealing with and have been motivated by him to redouble our efforts to ensure proper representation for athletes at WADA and elsewhere.’
Yves Kummer, president of the European Elite Athletes Association: ‘It is no longer acceptable that only sport administrators determine the conditions under which athletes will compete. Athletes need a voice and a seat at the table in a real way. Respect for athletes’ collective rights is compatible with the Olympic Charter and effective anti-doping rules. However, as mr. Fahey’s statement indicates, there is a lack of willingness at the top. Now that we have a ‘W’ (for world), this must change.’
Representatives from more than 100 athlete associations representing approximately 150,000 elite athletes attended the World Athletes Summit in Nyon, Switzerland in November 2011. Many common issues were identified including reform of the anti doping rules, good governance in sport, integrity and match fixing, dual careers/transition, collective bargaining rights and protection of athletes’ image rights. A joint statement, the Nyon Declaration, was unanimously accepted.
Jeff Reymond, general secretary of EU Athletes and representative of the French Basketball Players Union (SNB): ‘Mr. Fahey should focus on getting his own house in order. WADA rules require athletes to sacrifice many fundamental rights while many of WADA’s policies are not based on evidence or adequately monitored for effectiveness. WADA’s own ‘smart’ out of competition testing program is expensive and netted only 4 violations in 2010 (only 3 in 2009). These meager results are completely out of proportion with the sacrifice demanded of athletes. WADA can and must do better and accountability should start at the top.’
Walter Palmer, head of department at UNI Sport PRO: ‘Mr. Fahey’s comments are indicative of the crisis in sport governance that was referenced in the Nyon Declaration. Without real collective representation, the athlete has indeed been ‘removed from the center of sport’ and replaced by the sport administrator. Mr. Fahey and his ilk apparently want to keep it that way.’
Damian Hopley, chairman of the International Rugby Players Association (IRPA): ‘We envision working hand in hand with athletes commissions, with complimentary roles and responsibilities. However, it appears that some sports organisations would rather dictate critical working and social conditions with their own internal advisory bodies, which is unacceptable. Sport organizations are monopolies with strong and growing financial interests. In the interest of the credibility and evolution of all sports, the athletes must have an independent collective voice that is respected and heard at all levels, starting at the very top.’
Bobby Barnes (photo above), FIFPro board member: ‘Match-fixing is a global phenomenon that needs a global solution. It starts with organized crime yet it appears that sport organizations have put the focus on the athletes’ role. All stakeholders need to work together to solve this problem and player associations have a key role to play.’
Jose Luis Llorente, president of the Spanish Basketball Players Association: ‘The issue of dual careers and transition is critical for all athletes. There is a real crisis that athletes go through at the end of their careers. Currently, player associations, such as the ABP, are the only ones doing real, comprehensive work in this area. We work individually with athletes throughout their careers. Athletes would benefit from partnership at the global level between player associations and the IOC Athletes Commission on this issue.’
Simon Friis, Danish Handball Players Association: ‘Our role is to protect the working and social rights of our members. One priority is the right to the use and exploitation of one’s own personal image. We have examples of best practice at the national level and we’ll be working to expand this globally.’
Walter Palmer: ‘We invite all athletes competing at the Games to join us in forming an independent athletes’ voice. Beginning here in London and moving on towards Sochi and Rio de Janeiro, we will be working hard to organize athletes in independent associations that can address their collective issues. ‘INCLUDING YOU’, the theme of the next UNI Global Union world congress, will be our motto.’
The next World Athletes Summit will be held from 15-17 November 2012 at the UNI Global Union offices in Nyon, Switzerland.
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