Operating independently and apart from World Athletics (WA), a newly formed global Athletics Association (AA) is tasked with the responsibility of catering to track and field athletes’ needs first and foremost, and ensuring that they are at the center of attention on matters of the sport.
Bahamian Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo is a member, representing thousands of athletes, not just in the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC), but athletes around the world as well. The 24-member body was recently formed with the intention of looking out for the best interests of track and field athletes.
American four-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion Christian Taylor serves as the president of the body, which comprises members from every continent across the globe. American steeplechase runner Emma Coburn is the vice president. Other members on the board include Miller-Uibo, 13-time world champion Allyson Felix of the United States, Ashton Eaton of the United States, Julius Yego of Kenya, Katarina Johnson-Thompson of Great Britain, Jamaican nine-time World Champion and two-time Olympic Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, American Tianna Bartoletta and Tom Walsh of New Zealand, just to name a few.
Bahamas Association of Athletics Associations (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer said Miller-Uibo’s elevation to the management of athletics worldwide is just another step on the ladder of significant accomplishments for her.
“She is an ambassador, not just for the country, but she is an ambassador for the sport, and I think there could be nothing more befitting than for her to be one of the representatives for global athletics,” said Archer. “This is a proud moment not only for the sport, but also for the country. I am elated to see her involvement at a higher level and I believe this bodes well for The Bahamas, as she continues to represent herself, and The Bahamas, as one of the leaders in this sport.”
According to reports, the 24-member body was formed to give athletes, worldwide, a more significant presence on matters of world athletics, adding to the contribution of the athletes commission, which is a part of the executive landscape of the international global governing body of the sport.
“The objective of the Athletics Association is to provide track and field athletes with a meaningful voice, to fight for stronger athletes’ rights, and to seek an athletes-first approach to our sport,” as stated in a press release from the newly formed body.
Looking to expand the reach of the sport is another one of the objectives of the AA.
President Taylor said: “I am very proud of the progress made by the members of the Athletics Association board. Since its inception, a lot of work has been put in to establish the right governance and long-term viability that is essential to do justice to the athletes we represent. It’s this that has attracted the commitment and support of the athletes on the board. In addition to the board members, there are so many other athletes who have helped get us to this stage. World Athletics recently published a strategic plan, and athletes have been identified as key stakeholders. The Athletics Association provides a representative voice and a simple way for the sport’s governing body to follow through on their commitment. We are ready to contribute to the growth of the sport that we love, ensuring that athletes are part of the decision-making process. We firmly believe that we can affect positive change in our sport. We are ready for the challenge.”
The Athletes Commission is one of four commissions under World Athletics, and has similar goals as the newly formed Athletes Association, but a stronger presence around the decision-making table. For instance, under the 2019 Constitution of World Athletics, Athletes Commission Chairperson Renaud Lavillenie, of France, and one other member of the Athletes Commission are full voting members of the World Athletics Council.
World Athletics has previously stated that it supports athletes being present at the decision-making tables the council. Additionally, all athletes accredited for 2019 Doha World Championships were invited to vote in the elections, which took place during the championships, and nearly two-thirds of them cast their ballots.
As for the newly formed Athletics Association, its aim is to engage in positive dialogue with the sport’s governing body and the athletes commission, but is expected to hold World Athletics accountable and challenge the global governing body if they feel the best interests of the athletes are not being tended to.
According to the association’s statement, they have developed a number of support services and member benefits for athletes, including a hardship grant fund, training courses, and discounts on products. Of paramount concern is lobbying on behalf of the athletes to World Athletics and the Diamond League stakeholders in reference to changes to the Diamond League schedule, which includes removing the 200 meters (m), triple jump and discus from the circuit.
The newly formed association also plans to introduce a welfare charter, highlighting their commitment to improving the conditions for athletes across a range of issues as well as solidify a membership package that will begin in January 2021 and will offer access to courses on issues such as financial literacy and life after athletics.