In an open letter to athletes and delegates at the 2019 African Games, athlete-led organisation Global Athlete publicly backed Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare after she spoke up about athlete rights ahead of competition in Rabat, Morocco.
In July, Okagbare took to social media to hit out at Athletics Federation of Nigeria after they included her on a confirmed athlete list for the African Games without her knowledge.
Okagbare, who won gold in the women’s 4×100 metres sprint relay at the 2015 African Games, had shunned the All-Nigeria Track and Field Championships in Kaduna amid criticism of her national federation.
On Twitter she said: “Who this list helps? Can they please tell us what and when we will be getting our training grant, please?”
In its letter, Global Athlete said it would stand side by side with all athletes from Africa to ensure their rights are protected and there is no retribution for the basic human right of speaking up.
It added: “We encourage all athletes to use their voice.
“Remember, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athlete Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities clearly states that all athletes have the right to freedom of expression.
“Athletes’ voices will change the future of sport for the better – now is the time to join the growing band of athletes all over the world by standing tall and being vocal for positive change and meaningful engagement!”
The letter was signed by Global Athlete director general Rob Koehler and group start-up member Akwasi Frimpong.
It encouraged sport leaders at the African Games to ensure fundamental rights are upheld and that a clear mandate must be sent to African Government leaders for athletes to have an equal say on meaningful compensation and training plans.
The letter continued: “The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) must follow the IOC’s words that Olympic Solidarity is there to help athletes from nations in need.
“It is time for the funds to be sent directly to athletes and not through third parties.” –Insidethegames.com