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UN Calls for Protection of Athlete Human Rights Defenders

Athlete Human Rights Defenders

Athletes advocating for equality and denouncing abuses in sports face significant risks and must be protected as human rights defenders, said Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Monday.

“When athletes use their voice to promote equality in sport, they are human rights defenders,” Turk stated. “They often speak out at great risk to themselves and their careers in an environment not always open to internal criticism. Power dynamics in the sporting world are still very much at play, and more efforts are needed to dismantle them.”

Although Turk did not mention specific athletes, he emphasized the need for protection and avenues for athletes to speak out and seek redress without fear of reprisals.

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Turk’s remarks came during a UN Human Rights Council panel in Geneva, which included International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, focusing on human rights and the Olympics ahead of the Paris Summer Games.

Paris will host the Olympics from July 26 to August 11, and the Paralympic Games from August 28 to September 8.

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