On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete
A former World Anti-Doping Agency deputy director general, Rob Koehler is leading this "international athlete-led movement that will inspire and lead positive change in world sport, and collectively address the balance of power between athletes and administrators," according to its web site.
We spoke with him by phone Monday.
While he agreed that Global Athlete is an advocacy organization, he noted that it is developing into much more than that in collectively dealing with athletes' problems and fighting for their rights.
"When they have problems, when they have issues, we either help them from behind, or we join together in terms of making statements and pushing things. We've provided legal support. We've provided assistance in so many different areas, that right now it's advocacy. But we see in the future that being a collective group to stand together on issues collectively that are one hundred percent athlete-supported and athlete-driven, we'll start to make change," he said.
Yet there still is enormous resistance from the powers-that-be in world sport to these efforts.
"One of the things that, it's mind-boggling to me, and I still cannot understand," he continued, "why sport governance and sporting organizations do not see the benefit in bringing athletes along with them and together as a collective to try to make sport stronger, safer. And when you have collective athlete engagement and collective bargaining, you end up with growing the sport, not limiting it."
Most of the focus of Global Athlete now is on the rights of athletes in the Olympic movement. But there are also major popular movements and mass sentiment in many places around the world against those areas hosting the Olympics and other mega-events. One way of addressing that, he said, is to guarantee that the athletes are part of the process that goes into deciding just what the Olympics and these major events do.
"If athletes were a part of the decision-making and were a part of shaping what the Olympics should look like in the future, or in a World Cup, you all of a sudden have brand recognition, so you've attached your own brand to that brand when you become part of it. And when you become part of something and you want to see it in a better spot, you're going to be held accountable for it," he said.
"Money has overshadowed what the Olympic brand used to be," he said. What is needed is "a new type of approach and a new type of Olympics that meets all those, that addresses the criticisms that are out there."
The latest chapter in the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal involves Russian authorities providing doctored and fabricated data and evidence about the findings of the Moscow laboratory's doping test results to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
He said he and Global Athlete would support a "ban of Russia at the Olympics, to try to bring about some institutional change in the country. Because if the leaders of the sports can continue to manipulate and manage things and not have any dire consequences when they go to the Games, when are we going to see change inside?"
We also discussed how the funding they receive from the FairSport foundation is not attached to Global Athlete's decision-making, how Global Athlete has helped athletes in sports including karate and weightlifting, the development of alternative organizations outside the Olympic movement such as the International Swimming League, the plans of Global Athlete for the future, and much, much more.
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Thanks, Eddie Goldman