Global Athlete has called for the abolition of Rule 50 ©Global Athlete

Global Athlete has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to immediately abolish Rule 50, claiming it breaches athletes human rights.

The rule in question, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter is designed to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Movement, however it does not apply to the Paralympic Movement.

It states that: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Last week IOC President Thomas Bach said Rule 50 could be reviewed as part of a consultation process due to be conducted by the IOC Athletes Commission.

Under guidelines announced in January by the Athletes Commission, protests are defined as "displaying any political messaging, including signs or armbands", "gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling" and "refusal to follow the Ceremonies protocol."

Global Athlete say they would like to be part of the consultation and in a strongly worded statement issued today called for the rule to be scrapped.

"Athletes have had to choose between competing in silence and standing up for what’s right for far too long," the athlete body said.

"It is time for change. Every athlete must be empowered to use their platforms, gestures and voice. 

"Silencing the athlete voice has led to oppression, silence has led to abuse, and silence has led to discrimination in sport. 

"The current governance of the global sporting movement has placed athletes in a powerless position. 

Global Athlete has claimed that Rule 50 breaches athletes human rights ©Global Athlete
Global Athlete has claimed that Rule 50 breaches athletes human rights ©Global Athlete

"Athletes rarely get a say on the rules and development of sport, despite being the most important stakeholder. Without athletes, sport does not exist.

"It is blatantly hypocritical to tell athletes to stick to their sports and stay out of politics while the IOC and IPC consistently leverage politics to their advantage.

"The IOC and the IPC’s very own rules outlined in the Olympic Charter Rule 50 are a clear breach of every athletes’ human rights. 

"The IOC, as an observer to the United Nations, must be held to a higher standard. 

"The IOC and IPC must respect Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression - this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference.' Sport rules should not have the ability to limit that right.

"Athletes devote years of their lives to qualify for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"If athletes want to speak up while respecting other rights and freedoms detailed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the IOC should embrace their diverse opinions. 

"Silencing athletes should never be tolerated. Athletes are influencers, but they can only fight social injustice and assist in making the world a better place if their freedom of speech is protected, not punished. 

"To threaten athletes with removal from the Olympic or Paralympic Games is another sign of the imbalance of power between sport leaders and their most valuable asset- the athletes.  

"We call on all athletes to continue to stand together for change. We call on all sponsors to demand change. 

"We call on National Olympic and Paralympic Committees and International Federations to brave change as well as demand it. Lastly, we call on the IOC and IPC to end this hypocrisy, stand by their athletes, and abolish Rule 50."

insidethegames contacted the IOC and IPC for a response to the Global Athlete statement.

In a statement the IPC said: "Through the very nature of its activities and its vision to make for an inclusive world, the IPC aspires for a global society without any form of unlawful discrimination.

"While we strongly encourage Para athletes to advocate their rights and stand up for what they believe in, we do have a policy that aims to ensure the Paralympic Games are not used as a protest platform.

"This policy exists to safeguard athletes’ experience – we want the focus to be on sporting performances and achievements - and to ensure the Games do not become a hotbed for all types of protests, including ones that are contrary to our beliefs of creating an inclusive society for all.

"We are always looking at ways we can actively engage the athlete community. Through the IPC Athletes' Council we are keen to hear the ideas from National Paralympic Committee and International Federation athlete representatives how they believe they can share their views and beliefs at the Games away from the field of play in a non-protesting manner."

Criticism of regulations which prohibit specific demonstrations at the Olympic or Paralympic Games has intensified in light of worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in Minneapolis last month, after a white police officer Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.