The Current

Amateur athletes deserve a say in how competitions are run, says Benoit Huot

Olympic athletes can devote their whole lives to training for a brief shot at glory. But some say all that work doesn't leave them with much say in how their competitions are run, or how they're rewarded.

Athlete-led advocacy group Global Athlete, led by Canadian Rob Koehler, launched in February

Retired Paralympian Benoit Huot is involved with Global Athlete, a competitor-led movement aiming to drive change across the sporting world. (Al Tielemans/The Associated Press)

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Olympians and amateur athletes are trying to level the playing field when it comes to having their say in how competitions are run, and how they're rewarded.

"There is no real place for the athletes to have their say in this sporting system, compared to professional sport," said Benoit Huot, a recently retired Canadian Paralympic swimmer.

"Whether it's the NHL, the NFL, they have associations where … they feel they have a little bit of leverage," he told The Current's guest host Duncan McCue.

"Lots of us wish that we had an opportunity where we can actually say what we really think."

According to Huot, the International Olympic Committee rearranged the swimming schedule at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to suit prime-time television schedules in the U.S.

Preliminary races were held in the evening, with the finals in the morning.

Huot said that the changes had the potential to affect performance, but when the competitors complained, they were ignored.

The Current requested a comment from the International Olympic Committee, but did not hear back.

Huot is involved with Global Athlete, an athlete-led international organization that aims to drive change across the sporting world.

The group, which launched last month, is led by Canadian Rob Koehler, a former official from the World Anti-Doping Agency.

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Last week, athlete representatives of the U.S. Olympic movement met with the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee. They discussed strategies for putting athletes first on issues such as safety and remuneration. One of the options on the table is to have amateur athletes unionize.

Olympics has set up 'the greatest exposure hustle ever'

Morgan Campbell, a sports business writer at the Toronto Star, argued that organizations like the IOC have a stake in monetizing an athlete's talents, but the athletes themselves don't get the chance to do the same directly.

"They can only do it indirectly, through sponsorships that come with exposure that comes from doing well on this stage," Campbell told McCue.

He said that "what the Olympics has set up, is the greatest exposure hustle ever," where athletes compete without pay, in the hopes of building their profile.

The IOC gets billions of dollars from NBC for the broadcast rights for the Olympic Games, he explained.

"So what the IOC is saying is that your talent, your performances are worth money — we just don't feel like paying it to you, but go ahead and monetize the exposure if you can."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Imogen Birchard, and Samira Mohyeddin.

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