World Olympians Association Speaks Up For Clean Athletes

23 | 12 | 2015

(ATR) The World Olympians Association is speaking out against competition bans affecting clean athletes.

"We believe banning clean athletes is unjust and that sport and its many fans will ultimately pay the price as they will miss the opportunity to see their clean heroes compete at the highest level," WOA president Joel Bouzou said in a statement this week.

"Of course sanctions should be taken against cheaters whether they are athletes, officials or medical doctors. But the individual rights of clean athletes should also be respected as well as their right to train and to compete in the sport that they love."

Speaking with Around the Rings, Bouzou said the WOA statement is directed at "all clean athletes" across the globe. Now more than ever, Bouzou said, the world needs to protect clean athletes.

A report delivered by the World Anti Doping Agency Independent Commission last month exposed systemic doping cover-ups across Russian athletics.

In a statement released Dec. 11, the International Association of Athletics Federations established reinstatement conditions the All-Russian Athletics Federation must satisfy in order to demonstrate adequate reform.

As part of the effort to initiate permanent change, the IAAF is requiring that ARAF clean house, severing ties with any staff, officers or directors implicated in the past doping practices. The ARAF must also introduce a comprehensive code of ethics and term limits for its officials.

It is feasible that ARAF could enact these changes in the six months remaining until next summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. However, any Russian track and field athlete wishing to compete at the Games after reinstatement must submit to extensive doping tests.

Speaking with ATR, Bouzou referenced an AP article he saw shortly after the WOA released its statement on clean athletes. The article, according to Bouzou, suggested the WOA was defending Russian athletes who may not compete at Rio 2016.

“We don’t defend Russian athletes, we defend clean athletes. That’s very different.

“They can be from any country. When an article like that speaks openly about Russian athletes, I think it’s wrong. We never named any nation.”

He added, “The message to protect clean athletes is not only because of the clean athletes.

“Behind every Olympian, there are fans and supporters. Someone like Yelena Isinbayeva could be blocked in the future.

“If we block our heroes from competing, we block a lot of young people from joining sport.”

Bouzou told ATR the WOA is not only focused on serving Olympians. “We are also focused on serving society through Olympians.

“For the moment, you cannot prove scientifically that you are clean. You can prove only that you not positive through doping controls.

“You can only prove that you are not dirty. It’s a kind of double-negation.

“That’s why it’s so important to protect athletes who’ve passed controls all over the world to prove they are not dirty.”

Written by Nicole Bennett