Track champs seek bigger voice, form athletes’ rights group

July 16, 2020 GMT

A group of track and field champions is spearheading a new organization designed to give athletes a greater voice in their sport.

Two-time Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor is the president of The Athletics Association, which is seeking more say in key decisions made by the sport’s leaders.

Taylor and steeplechaser Emma Coburn, the association vice president, are among those who saw their events cut out of most Diamond League meets this year.

“That was just one more example of decisions being made at the highest level that are affecting thousands of athletes, and the global body of athletes weren’t considered,” said Coburn, the 2017 world champion.

The association’s top-listed goal is to “offer suggestions and alternatives that would include all stadium disciplines.” It also plans to offer courses on financial literacy and life after sports.

Taylor has been setting the framework for the athletes’ group since last November. This year’s postponement of the Tokyo Olympic due to the coronavirus pandemic has put more pressure on athletes to stay focused, while also putting many of their careers in limbo.

Meanwhile, calls have grown for collective bargaining between athletes and Olympic sports. A study released in April spelled out the disparities between what pro sports leagues give back to athlete salaries compared with the Olympics.

Coburn recognized that many decision makers have good intentions.

“But there are assumptions made about what athletes want and what’s best for them,” she said. “We’re grown-ups and we’re professionals. We’re no longer OK with just accepting those assumptions. We want to gather opinions, distribute those opinions and provide support for other athletes.”

Other world and Olympic champions on the association’s board include Allyson Felix, Ashton Eaton, Julius Yego, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Tianna Bartoletta and Tom Walsh.