The IOC Athletes’ Commission led a Global Athlete Network call on 2 December to discuss important, topical issues.

WADA representatives were involved and updated athletes on the latest developments with regard to sanctions following the manipulation of Russian lab data.

The IOC AC also led a discussion on Rule 50 and its importance in keeping sport neutral.

Dear Athletes,

On 2 December 2019, the Global Network of Athlete Representatives, led by the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC), came together to discuss two topics: WADA’s analysis of Russian lab data, and Rule 50 at the Olympic Games.

Fifty athlete representatives took part in the call, together with IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell, Jonathan Taylor, Chair of WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC), and Frédéric Donzé, COO of WADA.

Anti-doping developments

Jonathan Taylor started off by providing us with an update on vital recent developments in anti-doping and the background to them, as follows:

In January 2019, a WADA expert team retrieved the data from the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and the underlying analytical data generated by the former Moscow Laboratory in Russia.

The team worked hard with an independent pool of forensic experts from the University of Lausanne to verify the authenticity of the data, comparing the database with a copy provided by a whistle-blower back in late 2017.

The analysis led to the conclusion that there were some discrepancies between the two databases.

The CRC asked the WADA Intelligence & Investigation Unit (I&I) and the forensic experts to examine these discrepancies further. As a result, the experts identified different kinds of manipulations, including deletion of a significant amount of data from the 2019 database. Between June and October 2019, a number of questions were sent to the Russian authorities and expert meetings were held between WADA I&I and Russian representatives; however the explanations provided were not found to be adequate.

WADA I&I reported its findings to the CRC, which considered them as a critical case of non-compliance with the requirement imposed to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and the Russian Sports Ministry by WADA’s Executive Committee in September 2018, when it reinstated RUSADA as compliant, to provide WADA with a full and authentic copy of the Moscow Laboratory data. Per the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories that entered into force on 1 April 2018, the CRC subsequently sent a recommendation to the WADA Executive Committee. That recommendation can be found here.

On 9 December, the WADA Executive Committee unanimously approved the CRC recommendation and WADA immediately notified RUSADA that they have 21 days to accept it. If RUSADA does not accept WADA’s assertion, it will need to inform WADA accordingly and WADA will have to bring the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), who will ultimately make a decision.

On this topic, the IOC issued a statement on 9 December, commenting on the WADA recommendations. For more details on the CRC recommendation, the WADA Executive Committee decision and what they mean for Russian athletes, click here.

Rule 50 at the Olympic Games

Following this discussion, our IOC AC Vice-Chair, Danka Bartekova, presented the section on Rule 50. The IOC AC is fully supportive of freedom of expression, and this is also a principle included in the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. Our Commission will soon issue a document on Rule 50, giving further explanation about where you are free to demonstrate.

What exactly is stated by Rule 50?

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The focus at the Olympic Games must stay on athletes’ performance and sport, which is neutral and must stay separate from any political or religious issues or other types of interference.

Athlete representatives shared their opinions and feedback from their own athlete communities on the topic. This feedback is being compiled by the IOC AC and will be drafted into Guidelines for athletes competing at the Games. These Guidelines will be presented to the IOC Executive Board in January in a joint meeting with the IOC AC.

  • The focus must remain on athletes’ performance and sport itself.
  • It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.
  • Respect other athletes and their special moment.
  • Clarification on where athletes have the opportunity to express their views.

The places where athletes have the opportunity to demonstrate and express their views on any topics they want during the Olympic Games are:

  • The mixed zones during interviews
  • Press conferences and interviews
  • Team meetings
  • Digital and traditional media or other platforms

Should you have any feedback or questions for our Commission about Rule 50 or the recent anti-doping developments, please feel free to contact us at

In the Olympic spirit,

Kirsty Coventry

16 DECEMBER 2019