Inaki Gomez speaks at the 2019 IAAF Congress (© Getty Images)
by Inaki Gomez
For many athletes, administration may not be the most attractive, interesting side to the sport, but it’s an important area we need to pay attention to. Especially all those who want to shape its direction and future. The platform is there for us now to create tangible change. We just have to use it.
In the history of our sport, there have been times when significant decisions were made and not all perspectives were considered, whether inadvertently or not.
But what’s changed in recent years is that athletes now have a seat, a voice, at the top table – playing an active role in decision-making with two members of the Athletes’ Commission sitting on the World Athletics Council and at least one athlete on every other World Athletics Commission and working group.
Since 2017, I’ve served on the Athletes’ Commission, with two of those years acting as the chair, and my term will come to an end this year at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, where six new members will be elected for the next term of three years.
Until 25 March 2022, athletes can apply to become a candidate for one of those members, with all competing athletes at the World Athletics Championships being able to vote for those they want to see elected.
I want to encourage as many athletes as possible to get involved – use their voice. Get familiar with the workings of the Athletes’ Commission and see how you can contribute and be part of bringing more positive change to our sport (you can find more information about the Commission – here).
When I retired from race walking in 2016, I saw it as a natural transition to get involved with World Athletics – then IAAF – and contribute towards athlete representation in governance. I didn’t want to be there in a token sense, but to be engaged and truly amplify the athletes’ voice at the top level.
I first got involved before the Rio Olympics, during the governance reform road show. At the time, it meant taking a few days out from my training camp in the lead-up to Rio, but it was a worthwhile experience, opening the opportunity to engage directly with Council members and giving me a sense of what needed to happen in the organization long before my role with the Athletes’ Commission.
In the course of my time on the Commission, I’ve been involved in many key decisions, from governance reforms to competition rules and regulations, that have impacted the sport – not always to the perceived best interest of the athletes. However, I truly believe that without the athlete voice, the outcomes of those decisions would have been less athlete centric.
There have been a lot of changes over the past four years with how the Athletes’ Commission operates, and the platform it now has. When I started, I was an invitee to Council, without any voting role.
Today, the athletes have two sitting Council members with voting rights.
Additionally, under the governance structure, every Working Group or Commission needs to feature at least one representative from the athlete community. It’s about embedding the athletes’ voice in every level of the organization.
At the most recent Congress we introduced a constitutional amendment so the Athletes' Commission is exempt from the rule that if there was already a representative from a certain nation on the Council, there couldn’t be a second. The reality is that we aren’t there to speak on behalf of specific countries; we are there to represent athletes across the world.
The change means any athlete whose nation doesn’t have a representative on the Athletes’ Commission and is put forward for election by their federation, could get elected to the Commission and by virtue of that membership, could get elected to Council, even if someone from their country is already a sitting member of Council. It’s made it easier for anyone to be at the table where decisions are made.
It doesn’t mean our voice is the only one, of course, but it’s one that will form part of a collective to make decisions for the betterment of our sport. If we don’t participate in this role, then decisions will be made without the full context.
Ahead of the World Athletics Championships in Eugene and during the official campaign period in June, I’d encourage all athletes to familiarize themselves with the candidates for the Athletes’ Commission. If you know them, ask questions, and understand how they intend to contribute. If you don’t, reach out.
We all have concerns and issues we want aired, views on how the sport needs to advance, and this process has been created so we can all be part of that discussion. It’s part of the structure to take our vote and send representatives from us, the athletes, to those decision-making bodies.
But for athletes, the first step in all this is a willingness to take part in these conversations – to get involved and let their voices be heard.
All the information on how you can apply to run for election can be found here: