Australia Reps Listen To Fellow Athletes Ahead Of Olympic Rule 50 Word To IOC, Says Cate Campbell

Cate Campbell 5 - Delly Carr Collection
Cate Campbell - Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr from the Delly Carr Collection

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Australian athletes will take their views on Olympic Rule 50 and the right of peaceful protest to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after a period of “listening” and consultation over “a complex issue with passionate arguments on both sides”, swim sprint ace Cate Campbell has told Swimming World.

In the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd and widespread global protests that followed, athletes have vented their frustration over the IOC’s reminder to them that Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, covering “Advertising, demonstrations, propaganda”, will be enforced at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games shunted to 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issues spill well beyond racial discrimination, doping, Fair Play (as we note below with a reminder of recent events in swimming), the right to a fair share of vast revenues following from the business of the Olympics, image rights and freedom of speech among matters being raised by athlete representatives.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is conscious of the concerns of Australian athletes but wants those to be directed to the IOC Athletes Commission via the Australia Athletes Commission (AOC AC), which is chaired by pole vault champion Steve Hooker and includes Cate Campbell among its members.

A statement from the AOC noted: “AOC president John Coates has invited the AOC Athletes Commission to consider submitting any thoughts they may have direct to the IOC Athletes Commission chair, Kirsty Coventry.”

Approached by Swimming World, Campbell confirmed: “We have met as an AOC Athlete’s Commission, to discuss the process of sending feedback to the IOC.” Her explanation and use of the word ‘listen’ has deeper meaning to one of the most important issues on the minds of athletes: discrimination.

Aboriginal people practice deep listening, described as “an almost spiritual skill, based on respect. Sometimes called ‘dadirri’, deep listening is inner, quiet, still awareness, and waiting.” The waiting bit is something athletes believe sports governors to be good at, the listening less so. Campbell explained what Australian athletes would do next:

“Firstly, it is our job to listen. To listen to athlete’s views and the views of indigenous Australian athletes. The AOC has convened an Indigenous Advisory Committee and they have met a few times already. The AOC AC is in the process of asking Australian athletes for their opinions and what they would like to see change.”

Campbell cited the delay in the Olympics as providing an opportunity to take the time to listen, hear, collate and come to a view on Rule 50 and related issues. She noted:

“It is a complex issue – with passionate arguments on both sides. But for the moment, our job as an Athlete’s Commission, is to listen to, collect and then deliver the voices of Australian athletes to the IOC. In many ways, we are lucky the Games are still over 12 months away, because it gives us time to find the right balance to this divisive issue.”

Campbell spoke to Swimming World as a group of American athletes, led by 1968 Olympian John Carlos, published a letter to the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee urging the abolition of IOC Charter Rule 50.


Contested Waters by Jeff Wiltse

Further reading related to Rule 50:

The IOC lags other governors of big-business sport on the issue of athlete rights. The Olympic body says that it is open to making concessions after being lobbied by its own Athletes Commission, headed by 2004 and 2008 Olympic 200m backstroke champion Kirsty Coventry, of Zimbabwe.

Athletes now want the IOC to go much further and end the days when governors can and do engage in politics at all levels but forbid athletes from speaking their minds at the very moment when they have the biggest platform on which to have their views heard on issues that have a direct affect on them as athletes in the realm of world-class sport.

In Australia, where the first line of the “Advance Australia Fair” national anthem is “Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free” has been cited by the indigenous aboriginal community as ‘untrue’, in that many of them feel unable to rejoice because they are discriminated against and are not treated fairly.

When the Beyond Blue organization, an Australian independent non-profit dedicated to mental health support, conducted a study of discrimination and treatment of Australian aboriginal people, age 25 to 44, it found that Australian aboriginal people are the second biggest group of people discriminated against in Australia. Top of the discrimination league: groups who don’t speak English.

In sport, aboriginal athletes want their community to feel included in the anthem and have been using their platforms to get their voices heard for much longer than the Black Lives Matter movement (founded 2013) has been campaigning on similar issues.

Cody Walker, as the Indigenous All Stars rugby team captain, and Mal Meninga, Australia’s national rugby team coach, have called for a change to the national anthem because it fails to represent them as Australians.

Aboriginal communities were originally excluded from the original constitution because they were considered a dying race that did not need citizenship, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission. However, more than 90 per cent of Australians voted in favour of changing the constitution in a 1967 referendum.

The issues are live, of course.

In sport, many of those issues are summed up brilliantly in “The Australian Dream”, a must-watch for any seeking deeper understanding of the lives of others. You can watch it here.  The Trailer:

Written by Stan Grant, the film  is summed up by its makers as followers:

“From shy country kid to two-time Brownlow medallist and Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes is an inspiration to many. The footy field was where he thrived; the only place where the colour of his skin was irrelevant. Goodes’ world fell apart when he became the target of racial abuse during a game, which spiralled into public backlash against him. He spoke out about racism when Australia was not ready to hear the ugly truth, retiring quietly from the AFL heartbroken.

“Using the stunning athleticism of Adam Goodes at the peak of his powers as well as the game itself as the film’s backdrop, The Australian Dream prompts questions about Australia’s relationship with racism and its ability to confront its own past. This compelling, provocative and cinematic film uses interviews from both sides of the debate to ask probing and fundamental questions about what it means to be Australian and what it takes for any individual to stand up for what they truly believe in.”

“The Australian Dream is also a deeply personal and comprehensive exploration of Goodes’ own journey which saw him retreat from everyday life only to return determined to rise above the ugliness he had been forced to confront. The Australian Dream is something people reach for and many people obtain, but there’s an emptiness at the heart of it because Australia has not resolved the questions of its history. If the Australian Dream is rooted in racism, what can be done to redefine it for the next generation?”

In society in general – and in a parallel with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, Australia’s debate includes the role of police authorities  – there are some fine examples of things going not wrong but right. Our Law is a documentary that focuses on Australia’s only Indigenous-run police station, in Western Australia, as described by The Guardian recently. Directed by Cornel Ozies, Our Law depicts the mutually respectful relationship forged between the Indigenous community and the officers who police it.

The letter of the Racism and Law in Australian Rules Football held that St. Kilda soccer player Nicky Winmar was racially taunted by spectators after a match against the Collingwood soccer team. Winmar, who is aboriginal, lifted his shirt, pointed to his chest declared:

“I’m black – and I’m proud to be black”.

Rule 50: would that be allowed? The IOC intends to be the judge of Rule 50, stating recently that it will “look at each case” on its own merits.

Here’s what happened in Australia when the governors insisted on being the judges of the rules they set:

Allan McAllister, the president of Collingwood, condemned Winmar’s actions. He said that indigenous people should “conduct themselves like white people. Here’s how the Sydney Morning Herald reported the story:

A week later, then Collingwood president Allan McAlister unwittingly gave an insight into the underlying dynamics of the abuse.

He wanted to assure people that the Magpies did not have an issue with indigenous Australians, but then added the following proviso: ”As long as they conduct themselves like white people, well, off the field, everyone will admire and respect … As long as they conduct themselves like human beings, they will be all right. That’s the key.”

McAlister was giving voice to long-discredited but still active assumptions of racial hierarchies. Assumptions that had their roots in racialised science which saw white men as the pinnacle of evolution and believed indigenous Australians were the remnants of an inferior, dying race. It was such continuing, inchoate beliefs which made black a term of disparagement.

The National Indigenous Television called Winmar’s stance one of the most important moments in Australian Football League history. That was 2013.

A year later, Cathy Freeman, the Australian Olympic 400m track champion who was one of the faces of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, recalled events 20 years earlier when she was lambasted by Arthur Tunstall, the Australian team’s chef de mission, at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.

After winning the women’s 400m, Freeman had taken a victory lap while draped in Aboriginal flags. In her 2004 autobiography, she writes:

“I took the flag and draped it over my shoulders like a cape and trotted off. I wanted to shout, ‘Look at me, look at my skin. I’m black and I’m the best!’ There was no more shame.”

What would Rule 50 have made of it – and where would Rule 50 be in relation to the evolution of human society?

A recent poll showed that 73 per cent of Australians approved of her actions. Her stance elevated Freeman from world-class athlete to key cultural and sporting ambassador for the Australian Indigenous community.

Where The Debate Met Swimming Of Late

(L-R) Second placed Mack Horton of Australia keeps his distance to winner Yang Sun of China while they pose with their medals for photographers after competing in the men's 400m Freestyle Final during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 21 July 2019. Gabriele Detti of Italy finishes third.

Mack Horton, left, keeps his distance to Sun Yang for the photo-op with bronze medallist Gabriele Detti after medals in the 400m free at world titles in Gwangju … podium protests followed after Sun Yang’s latest brush with anti-doping authorities – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

In swimming, the peaceful podium protests by Australia’s Mack Horton and Britain’s Duncan Scott at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju in a challenge to the presence of Sun Yang as their Chinese rival awaited a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport were a case in point.

The argument of the athletes can be summed up in a simple sequence of events and associated decisions:

  • FINA and its Doping Panel believed Sun – who tested positive for a banned substance in 2014 and was handed a three-month backdated suspension that was never served – deserved no punishment after a quarrel with anti-doping testers in 2018 that ended in a blood sample already signed off into the chain of command being taken back by the athlete and his doctor Ba Zhen before the outer casing of the vial containing the sample was smashed with a hammer on the pavement outside the control room by a security guard who had been asked by the swimmer’s mother Ming Yang to fetch a hammer,
  • The FINA Doping Panel and FINA opted to declare the judgment a matter only for the parties involved
  • Others disagreed and believed that transparency was essential
  • As the journalist given access to the ruling in what would have remained a secret hearing into the events involving Sun Yang in 2018, I submitted my report to The Sunday Times and that was published in late January 2019, the wider world now aware of the issues.
  • The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigated further and challenged the FINA ruling at the CAS in March.
  • By July, there had been insufficient progress of process, no hearing date had been set and Sun Yang was free to compete.
  • Two of his key rivals, Horton and Scott, opted to stage peaceful podium protests by refusing to shake hands with Sun – the first man home over 400m freestyle and second man home over 200m but the gold medallist in both races, courtesy of the disqualification of Lithuanian Danas Rapsys – and refusing to stand for podium pictures with a man they believed should not have been allowed to race at all.
  • The challenge of the protester extended to this: if the rules and their enforcement by authorities charged with enforcing them cannot prevent injustice in sport, then either the rules are wrong or the authorities have failed to apply them properly (both may apply in certain circumstances).

WADA won its challenge at the CAS, FINA’s argument was lost, as was that of Sun, who was handed an eight-year suspension (one he has challenged at the Swiss Federal Tribunal on procedural and rights grounds under Swiss Law, which is applicable to the CAS and FINA, as both organisations are based in Switzerland). That process appeared to confirm that it was the handling and interpretation of rules at FINA level that was the greater issue, thus making the World Championships the perfect platform to stage peaceful protest, athlete representatives point out.

Adam Peaty, Katie Ledecky, Katinka Hosszu, Cate Campbell, Sarah Sjostrom, Chad le Clos, James Guy and scores of others stood by Horton and Scott and backed their right to express a view on an issue of fundamental importance to swimmers.

In the Olympic realm of Rule 50, this is where all of those issues fit:

Rule 50 and its bye-law, as of June 2019


Photo Courtesy: IOC

Advertising, demonstrations, propaganda

1. Except as may be authorised by the IOC Executive Board on an exceptional basis, no form of advertising or other publicity shall be allowed in and above the stadia, venues and other competition areas which are considered as part of the Olympic sites. Commercial installations and advertising signs shall not be allowed in the stadia, venues or other sports grounds.

2. No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.

Bye-law to Rule 50
1. No form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by all competitors, team officials, other team personnel and all other participants in the Olympic Games, except for the identification – as defined in paragraph 8 below – of the manufacturer of the article or equipment concerned, provided that such identification shall not be marked conspicuously for advertising purposes.

The IOC Executive Board shall adopt guidelines that provide further details on the implementation of this principle.

Any violation of this Bye-law 1 and the guidelines adopted hereunder may result in disqualification of the person or delegation concerned, or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person or delegation concerned, without prejudice to further measures and sanctions which may be pronounced by the IOC Executive Board or Session.

The numbers worn by competitors may not display publicity of any kind and must bear the Olympic emblem of the OCOG.

2. Any mascot created for the Olympic Games shall be considered to be an Olympic emblem, the design of which must be submitted by the OCOG to the IOC Executive Board for its approval. Such mascot may not be used for commercial purposes in the country of an NOC without the latter’s prior written approval.

3. To be valid, all contracts of the OCOG providing for any element of advertising, including the right or license to use the emblem or the mascot of the Olympic Games, must be in conformity with the Olympic Charter and must comply with the instructions given by the IOC Executive Board. The same shall apply to contracts relating to the timing equipment, the scoreboards, and to the injection of any identification signal in television programmes. Breaches of these regulations come under the authority of the Executive Board.

4. The OCOG shall ensure the protection of the property of the emblem and the mascot of the Olympic Games for the benefit of the IOC, both nationally and internationally. However, the OCOG alone and, after the OCOG has been wound up, the NOC of the country of the host, may exploit such emblem and mascot, as well as other marks, designs, badges, posters, objects and documents connected with the Olympic Games during their preparation and celebration and terminating not later than the end of the calendar year during which such Olympic Games are held. Upon the expiry of this period, all rights in or relating to such emblem, mascot and other marks, designs, badges, posters, objects and documents shall thereafter belong entirely to the IOC. The OCOG and/or the NOC, as the case may be and to the extent necessary, shall act as trustees (in a fiduciary capacity) for the sole benefit of the IOC in this respect.

5. The provisions of this Bye-law also apply, mutatis mutandis, to all contracts signed by the organising committee of a Session or an Olympic Congress.

6. The uniforms of the competitors, team officials, and other team personnel may include the flag or Olympic emblem of their NOC and, with the consent of the OCOG, the OCOG Olympic emblem. The IF officials may wear the uniform and the emblem of their IF.

7. The identification on all technical gear, installations and other apparatus, which are neither worn nor used by competitors, team officials, other team personnel or any other participants in the Olympic Games, including timing equipment and scoreboards, may on no account be larger than 1/10th of the height of the equipment, installation or apparatus in question, and shall not be greater than 10 cm high.

8. The word “identification” means the normal display of the name, designation, trademark, logo or any other distinctive sign of the manufacturer of the item, appearing not more than once per item.

9. The OCOG, all competitors, team officials, other team personnel and all other participants in the Olympic Games shall comply with the relevant manuals, guides, regulations or guidelines, and all other instructions of the IOC Executive Board, in respect of all matters subject to Rule 50 and this Bye-law.