Lausanne Sports Forum tackles contentious issues

Richard Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, attended the third World Sports Forum in Lausanne Keystone Archive

The World Sports Forum, a gathering of some of the most influential people connected with the world of sports has ended in Lausanne with a call for more sports to be taught in schools and for stronger measures to be taken to prevent banned substances being used in food supplements.

This content was published on May 23, 2001 - 19:37

The Forum is seen as a place where decision-makers and opinion-formers from various fields connected with sport can come together to address some of the most contentious issues facing sport today. This year's meeting is the third of it's kind since the first forum in 1998.

"The calibre of the forum can be seen by noting the people who participated," says the chairman of the forum, Stephen Rubin.

Among those in attendance over the three days were the president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the UN envoy for Sport and Peace, Adolf Ogi, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Richard Pound, and leading former sportsmen and women such as Sergey Bubka, Pernilla Wiberg, Johann-Olav Koss and Jakob Hlasek.

They were joined by business leaders, academics and senior officials from a number of United Nations agencies.

"Sport is perhaps the major influence in the world today. It has more influence than all the world's religions put together," Rubin told swissinfo.

"We need to work out how we can harness that power for the betterment of mankind," he added. He says that to ensure that sport's influence is for the good, it is important that everyone is "on the same side". It is for this reason that every aspect of sport - from administrators to the media, from big business to the players - was represented in Lausanne.

Conscious that the forum could be dismissed as a place to simply talk shop, the organisers have sought to limit the number of set-piece speeches and increase the amount of debating and networking. They have also introduced the concept of "resolutions" that are issued after some of the debates.

The first of these concerned the use of prohibited substances in the food supplements taken by many athletes. The forum said it was concerned about the link between the increasing number of positive samples and the athletes saying they had taken supplements.

It pointed to the "strong evidence ... proving that supplements contain non-declared, prohibited substances", and advised athletes to use caution when taking these products.

A second resolution called for physical education and sports to "remain an integral part of the school curriculum at every level of education" It stressed that sport is an effective way of combating violence and racism and promoting equality and tolerance.
Other debates included one on the role of women in sport, especially the difficulties women in some Islamic countries have in competing. Another panel looked at how sponsors and the media might benefit and harm the careers and lives of athletes.

This, like many of the debates, illustrated the dependence sport has on big business, and the possible conflict between the concept of fair play and the needs to win and make a profit.

The final debate concerned the need to look after consumers' interests by keeping selected sports events - such as Olympic Games or the Football World Cup - on public television.

But the International Olympic Committee revealed that it was considering allowing some of the fringe sports at the Games to be screened on pay-per-view television, so that fans could watch them. There is concern that, in the United States for example, only popular sports involving American athletes are being broadcast on public TV, effectively excluding a sizeable minority who are interested in kayaking, judo or clay-pigeon shooting. This practice also excludes foreign stars in mainstream sports.

The head of the Swiss public broadcaster, SRG SSR idée Suisse, Armin Walpen, also confirmed that, if there is no change to the current situation, Swiss public television will be unable to broadcast matches from next year's football World Cup.

"There are some aspects of sport that should be controlled and others that should not," say Stephen Rubin.

The forum has its origins in a 1995 conference held in the Swiss resort of Verbier, which dealt with the issue of sport and human rights, and in particular the use of child labour in the manufacture of sports equipment.

The first two World Sports Forums were held in St Moritz, in 1998 and 2000. But the relative ease of reaching Lausanne, and the proximity of the IOC and other sporting organisations, means that future meetings are likely to be held in the Olympic capital.

by Roy Probert

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