ATHLETICS NEWS - Most Australian Olympians believe protests should not be allowed in competition or on the podium, a survey showed Friday, despite calls for greater freedom of expression at the Games.
The issue has come under renewed scrutiny following the death of American George Floyd in May, with countless athletes worldwide taking a knee in support of a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement.
International Olympic Committee rules currently bar any "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" at the Games.
But in a letter to the IOC in late June, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee's athlete council requested the anti-protest regulation be abolished or amended.
With pressure mounting, the IOC asked for feedback from others, and the Australian Olympic Committee's athletes commission, led by pole-vault gold medallist Steve Hooker, surveyed nearly 500 current and former Olympians.
More than 80 percent said a protest on the field of play would detract from the performance or experience of athletes.
That question did not specifically refer to podium protests, but answers to other queries indicated a strong belief that such expressions belong elsewhere.
Just under 41 percent felt the Games were not a place for athletes to make their views known at all, but almost as many said they should be able to do so, depending on the circumstances.
The most favoured way was on designated spaces like posting walls in the Olympic village, during interviews or via social media.
"Non-discrimination is one of the pillars of the Olympic movement," said Hooker.
"We were interested in the balance between our athletes' views on freedom of expression and their obligations to respect the rights of others."
He said there was a clear trend showing a higher proportion of present-day athletes believe the Games were a platform for self-expression when compared with Olympians from earlier eras.
"Nevertheless, the majority of that younger group felt opportunities in social media and media conferences were preferable to protest on the field of play or Olympic podium," Hooker added.
"We have made a number of recommendations (to the IOC) around supporting those alternative options."
The US letter to the IOC was backed by 1968 Mexico Games icon John Carlos, who raised his fist on the podium in a black power salute with compatriot Tommie Smith.
Australia's Peter Norman was the silver medallist in their 200m race and stood on the podium alongside them, wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in support.
The unsung sprinter was subsequently frozen out of future Games selection and airbrushed from Australian Olympic history until recently.
At last year's world swimming championships, Australia's Mack Horton refused to take the podium for photographs with China's Sun Yang, who was later handed an eight-year ban for anti-doping violations.