Silver medalist Callum Skinner (L) smiles during the podium ceremony for the men's cycling sprint final at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Then-World Anti-Doping Agency Deputy Director General Rob Koehler (R) testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: AP)
An Olympic gold medalist and a former executive at the World Anti-Doping Agency are forming an organization designed to give athletes a stronger voice in the fight against doping and the powers that police it.
The group, called Global Athlete, is being organized by British cyclist Callum Skinner. Rob Koehler, who suddenly quit his post as deputy director general at WADA last year, will be the group’s director general.
Athletes have spoken out in large numbers to protest what they perceive as lax treatment of Russia by the International Olympic Committee and WADA in the wake of the country’s doping scandal.
Koehler said the group won’t be focused only on doping issues, though clearly the Russian doping crisis has served as a wake-up call.
“The whole idea of dissenting voices being cast off and not being listened to, or being portrayed as uninformed and not seeing the big picture, doesn’t fly,” Koehler said. “The athletes we talk to get the big picture. They want to grow sport together with sporting leaders.”
While Koehler said the group will reach out to the IOC and WADA, the athletes involved in the group — more names will trickle out later this week — have to ultimately decide the best way to push for change.
The nonprofit group FairSport and individual donors will provide funding for the new group, and Koehler said sports, governments and anti-doping groups will have no say over Global Athlete’s decision-making.
WADA and the IOC did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment on the new group.
Koehler worked with the athletes committee while at WADA. He said he did not want to discuss the reason for his abrupt departure last August.
“But I can tell you, that’s a group that, in my opinion, were trailblazers in not being afraid to take stands on issues where we knew there was potential for pushback,” he said. “They pushed me. They made me reflect on what they were all about. It was that athletes, in the end, need to be listened to, engaged and brought to the table.”