With the conclusion of 2019 and the start of a new decade, we, as the Canadian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission (COC AC), wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some news, information, and certain domestic/international sporting highlights from 2019.

From the athlete’s perspective, 2019 was a tremulous year. As has been the case in recent years, the fight against doping and the handling by WADA of Russia’s anti-doping violations continued to be one of the most prominent issues in sport. However, other developments have begun to attract the athletes’ voice and engagement, including the speaking up of victims in high-profile cases of harassment and abuse, the continued discussions around the interpretation of Rule 40 – Participation in the Olympic Games (Rule 40) of the Olympic Charter, and more recently, the politicization of Rule 50 – Advertising, demonstrations, propaganda (Rule 50) of the Olympic Charter.

However, despite the matters mentioned above, there are many stories in Canadian sport worth celebrating, which include the following highlights:

Sporting Achievements – Canadian athletes won over 150 medals at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and a record number of athletes and teams have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which demonstrate that Canadian sport is alive and well.

Celebrating our History – October marked the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The Class of 2019 included four Canadian Olympic legends (Émilie Heymans / Alexandre Despatie / Christine Girard / Simon Whitfield), two medal-winning teams (Vancouver 2010 women’s hockey team / London 2012 women’s soccer team), two sport builders (Jack Poole / Randy Starkman), and one coach (Hiroshi Nakamura). The inductees were celebrated by 300 of their closest family and friends.

Community Builders – During the Federal election this past October we had two major Olympic wins at the ballot box, as both 4-time Olympic medalist and a former chair of our COC AC, Adam van Koeverden, and 2-time Olympian, Lyne Bessette, were elected to the Canadian House of Commons. We would like to extend our hearty congratulations to both Lyne and Adam!

Keeping in mind some of the challenges that sport faces, as we head into 2020, the COC AC wants to be better positioned to work collaboratively with other stakeholders in finding solutions that address the challenges facing sport. To do this, the COC AC will do as follows:

  • Maintain and improve our connection with the athlete council or similar athlete group of each Canadian National Sport Organization (NSO).
  • Internationally continue to strengthen relationships and partnerships with the athletes’ commissions, athlete representative groups or similar athlete groups of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), other National Olympic Committees and International Federations. 
  • Continue the excellent relationships we hold with the Canadian Olympic Committee.

As a part of this strategy, the COC AC wants to help more Canadian athletes fill roles on the international stage, something that you can help us with!

2019 Year in Review

Here is what your COC AC has been working on:

Marketing & Partnerships

The primary objective of this area is to help enhance the experience of both COC partners and athletes. We have continued to work collaboratively with the COC engaging in several different areas. We presented to key COC stakeholders at the Partner and Agent Summits, where we underscored the importance of building deep, meaningful relationships between COC partners and athletes. When Sobeys was announced as a new Team Canada Partner we participated in discussions to, and provided the COC with a few creative thought-starters on ways in which Sobeys could authentically activate and amplify this deal with the athletes’ interests in mind.

Rule 40

As many of you will know, the IOC’s Rule 40 has been a hot button issue internationally, and we have been closely following the interpretation and implementation of such rule in different countries around the world. The COC AC worked closely with the COC legal and partnerships teams to simplify and liberalize Canada’s implementation of the rule by developing a new set of guidelines (the COC Rule 40 Guidelines) that apply to Canadian athletes.  We feel comfortable with the newly released COC Rule 40 Guidelines, as the COC’s application of Rule 40 strikes a reasonable balance between protecting the marketing rights of the COC’s partners while also allowing athletes to more freely engage and thank their personal sponsors within the Olympic window.

For reference, the new the COC Rule 40 Guidelines include, among other things, the following:

  • athletes with increased opportunities to engage with personal sponsors during the Games period;
  • athletes can now share promotional social media posts as part of a long-standing, generic campaign during the Games Period; and a less restrictive timeline for sponsor campaigns to be in market (i.e., 90 days pre-Games period).

The AC will be assessing and reporting on the impacts of this change after Tokyo. Feel free to send your comments to our mailbox. Additional details on the COC Rule 40 Guidelines can be found here.

Collective Image Use

Over the past year, the COC AC has worked closely with the COC legal and partnerships teams to address some of the challenges with the definition of collective image use (a contractual image/use of likeness right granted by athletes to COC and its partners to use images of athletes in a collective image or purpose, subject to certain restrictions, and referred to as, Collective Use) and the parameters of Collective Use. Here is the gist of what you need to know:

In order for a partner of the COC to use your image under Collective Use, such use has to be in a spirit of representing Team Canada so that it does not create a direct association between you and their brand. Previously, the definition of Collective Use required the use of images to include a collective of 5 athletes from 3 different sports. The new definition for Collective Use expands the athlete number requirement to 15 athletes from 5 sports, which imposes additional restrictions on partners of the COC to prevent them from capitalizing on an athlete’s likeness or commercial brand without compensation. In short, changes to Collective Use ensure that images are more representative of the Team Canada as a whole and not of a limited number of athletes with strong market power. 

Athlete Rights

Rule 50

The IOC Athletes’ Commission recently released its Rule 50 guidelines for athletes that provides a framework as to when and where they can express their views (including political views) during the Games. The IOC AC state that this is aimed at protecting the neutrality of sport at the Olympics. With an increase in athlete activism and a growing demand from athletes for the ability to speak out, the IOC is attempting to carve out policies that balance these growing demands while trying to protect the Games from becoming a platform for political statements. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Protests and demonstrations of any kind are not permitted at any Olympic venue including the field of play, the Olympic Village, during medal ceremonies or during Opening or Closing Ceremonies
  • Athletes can express their views during interviews, press conferences, at team meetings, on digital or traditional media, or on other platforms.

For full details, see here.

Safe Sport

Although safe sport continues to be one of the most important topics in Canadian sport, a lot of positive steps were taken in this area this past year despite some lost momentum as a result of the Canadian federal elections. Members of the COC AC form part of athlete working groups lead by AthletesCAN and include Sport Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Commission. These groups are tasked with devising athlete centric ideas to develop a safe sporting environment for athletes, free of harassment and abuse. As this continues to develop, we will provide updates on any developments.

COC Athlete Agreement

Lastly, as part of our work to make the COC athlete agreement more athlete friendly, we are currently working with the COC legal team to re-draft the agreement in such a way that further strengthens the rights of the athletes, including as it relates to commercial matters (i.e., image rights and Collective Use), privacy and other important legal matters. Additionally, we are also working with COC to brainstorm how best to communicate all that you need to know about the athlete agreement prior to you signing the agreement ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games.  

Athlete Communication

Our main goal here is to enhance our communication both ways so that athletes have the information they need from us, and an effective way to communicate with us. A few of the ways we are doing this include online platforms (see our social media handles and contact details below) and by building out a network of athlete representatives in each sport. We are also building relationships and partnerships with the athletes’ commissions, athlete representative groups or similar athlete groups of IOC, WADA, Pan Am Sport, other National Olympic Committees and International Federations

Also, we attended this year’s COC Olympic Lab in Toronto (thank you to anyone who came to say hi!). Whether inside or outside Canada, the COC AC will work to make the most of any opportunity to communicate, learn, and network with other members of the sporting community.

Melissa Humana Parades was elected as Canada’s representative on the Pan American Sports Athlete Commission. This role also makes Melissa a member of the COC Athlete Commission. We’re looking forward to welcoming Melissa to our AC family, assisting her as the new role takes her all over the Americas and mostly importantly cheering her on in Tokyo!

Our overarching mission is to represent, advocate, and communicate the voice of Canadian Olympic Athletes and to promote Olympism while ensuring the consideration of athletes’ rights within the COC.

To see more details on our goals, check out our COC Athlete Commission Strategic Plan Overview here.

Stay Connected

Twitter: @TeamCanadaAC
Website: AC page can be found on

AthletesCAN is the association of Canada’s national team athletes. It is an inclusive athlete organization that is independent of sport governing bodies that works to ensure that the sport system is athlete centered. They have a ton of great resources available that help to build strong athlete leaders so be sure to check it out!

Game Plan is Canada’s total athlete wellness program that has resources available to athletes to ensure they are supported during their sporting career and beyond. These resources focused on five key areas: health, skill development, education, network and career. We recently had a session with Game Plan to learn more about what they have to offer and were blown away. The Game Plan team are working hard to constantly add new partners and services. We highly recommend that you have take a minute to explore their website, register for the program and get in touch with a Game Plan advisor near you!

We are excited to make 2020 a good year for athletes and the roaring 20’s an amazing decade for the whole community. We wish everyone all the best and send a special shout out to all the athletes competing! We will be in touch throughout the year but reach out to us anytime!

Yours in sport,

The Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athlete Commission

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