The board of the new independent organisation for track and field athletes asks the IOC to make changes to Rule 50

The Athletics Association board is calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make changes to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter to allow athletes the right to peacefully protest at the Games without punishment.

Rule 50 states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Earlier this year the IOC issued guidelines which said that banned protests include taking a knee.

“The board of the Athletics Association are adding our voices to the calls around the world for the IOC to make changes to Rule 50 – changes that would allow athletes to exercise their basic human right to peacefully protest against social injustices in the world, without punishment or sanctions,” the independent organisation said in a statement released on Friday (July 17).

“For too long athletes have been powerless and without a real voice. 52 years after Tommie Smith and John Carlos, supported by Peter Norman, peacefully protested on the medal podium following the 200 metres, very little has changed. 52 years and the systemic racism that Tommie Smith and John Carlos were protesting against is still destroying communities and lives all over the world. And yet, athletes today have been warned that if they peacefully protest then they too will face sanctions and risk being disqualified or suspended.”

The statement added, in part: “We strongly believe that if athletes are protesting in the spirit of Olympism, then to punish them for these peaceful protests goes against what the Olympics is supposed to represent and encourage.

“It’s clear that the IOC’s Rule 50 is not fit for purpose and is in fact preventing athletes from displaying Olympism at the Olympic Games. We call on the IOC to make changes to the Rule ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games that are due to take place in 2021.

“We also call on National Olympic Committees around the world to support the athletes that represent their countries on the world’s biggest sporting stage, by guaranteeing that any athlete that peacefully protests in the spirit of Olympism will face no sanctions or punishment.”

Speaking during the 136th IOC Session on Friday, IOC president Thomas Bach said: “It is important to emphasise that the athletes have already multiple opportunities to express their views also during the Olympic Games – press conferences, mixed zones, social media, interviews, team meetings and others. Rule 50 addresses only the field of play and the ceremonies.

“To reconcile these values of free expression on the one hand and respect for each other on the other hand, the IOC Athletes’ Commission has initiated a dialogue among athletes on how they can even better express their support for the Olympic values in a dignified and non-divisive way.”

On Thursday the Athletics Association, which is led by two-time Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor, announced its athlete board and initial objectives as the independent organisation formally launched.

The board is made up of representatives from every continent, with Britain’s world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson and 2017 world relay gold medallist Adam Gemili named as members representing combined events and sprints respectively.

Click here to read more about the board and the organisation’s initial objectives.

» This post was updated on July 17 to include comment from IOC president Thomas Bach

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