Do you know that old scout motto about leaving the campsite a better place than you found it? If you think that concept ought to apply to track and field as well — and happen to be one of the best athletes in the world — then you should consider running for election to become a part of the Athletes’ Commission.
With applications due on March 23rd, now seemed like an appropriate time to demystify the Athletes’ Commission for fans and maybe motivate some of our faster subscribers to consider running for something that isn’t their usual event. To share a bit more about the World Athletics Athletes’ Commission I reached out to two-time Olympian Aisha Praught-Leer of Jamaica to hear about her involvement.
THE LAP COUNT: I guess a good place to start would be: what is the Athletes’ Commission?
AISHA PRAUGHT-LEER: I didn’t even know it existed until I was nudged to run myself, so don’t feel bad if you don’t know much about it. It is a group of 18 athletes (12 are elected and 6 appointed) who represent the athlete’s interest in all things World Athletics related. We are involved in every decision that affects athletes. We’re basically an athlete’s governance group, but it has changed a lot over the last six years — it has a much stronger voice now as our chair and vice-chair both sit as council members. That’s the group that’s making all the rules for World Athletics.
Additionally, there has to be a member from the Athletes’ Commission on every working group. I was on the human rights working group, or you could be involved in something like the rules surrounding footwear. We’re privy to a lot of information and are able to help make key decisions.
THE LAP COUNT: Since you came on board in 2019, what is the one thing that you’ve seen athletes have the greatest impact on?
AISHA PRAUGHT-LEER: I’m going to give you three. The first is bringing all the events back to the Diamond League. We acted as a collective and just put our foot down so hard that all events had to return. It was a multi-pronged approach across the entire sport — everyone standing up and saying it all has to return. The second is we work a lot with the Athletes Integrity Unit on anti-doping efforts, providing insights and guidance to their process. And the third way we’ve been very active is in footwear. There’s been such a huge evolution in that side of the sport and the group hasn’t always agreed with every decision that’s been made, but we’ve had a strong voice in the conversation.
THE LAP COUNT: I am assuming this is all a volunteer position. How much of a time commitment is it on your end? Are you traveling much to be a part of the Athletes’ Commission?
AISHA PRAUGHT-LEER: Some people have never shown up to a meeting and that’s crazy. We’re hoping that this next election motivates people to consider coming on board and bring a fresh perspective. There are quarterly calls for updates from the various groups. And one of the perks is that we all go to Monaco for congress in November. If you’re interested in governance, it’s awesome to be involved in high level decisions of the sport.
THE LAP COUNT: Maybe this is a layup question, but I’m interested to hear you speak on it — why should athletes care about this?
AISHA PRAUGHT-LEER: It’s about having your voice heard, and now more than ever it’s important to have an athlete in the room when big decisions are being made. Athletes love to sit around the dinner table and talk about ways the sport could be improved, but this is the best way to do it.
At times it can be tedious. But if you’re an ideas person with innovative ideas for track and field, this is the place for you. This is the place where you can have your ideas heard by the people who can make them happen. It has helped me grow and I’ve been challenged by it. It’s about being more than an athlete and using your brain and experience to help out fellow and future athletes.
Kyle, you would have loved to do it.
THE LAP COUNT: Is there like a minimum requirement to be a part of it? Can any athlete do it?
AISHA PRAUGHT-LEER: You have to have competed in one of the last two World Championships or the most recent Olympics.
THE LAP COUNT: Damn…
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