The IOC Athletes' Commission has criticised the new athlete group ©IOC

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Tension between competitors who have spoken out on several issues in sport in recent months has re-emerged after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission criticised a new athlete-led group following its launch yesterday.

In a statement, the IOC body said it was "disappointing" that the Global Athlete organisation "seems to believe that none of us care about athletes and that none of us do a good job for athletes if we are part of the Olympic Movement".

The IOC Athletes' Commission also claimed there remain "many unanswered questions about universality, accountability and funding".

Global Athlete director general Rob Koehler told insidethegames, however, that the new organisation was "not a threat" and would welcome any "dissenting voices or criticism".

Koehler, who suddenly resigned as deputy director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last year, admitted that Global Athlete had not consulted the athlete bodies at the IOC and WADA before it launched.

Olympic cycling champion Callum Skinner, one of the leaders of the group, told CBC that the IOC Athletes' Commission was largely an extension of the IOC "that maybe pushes their end goals more than the athletes".

Global Athlete claim to be completely independent of National Anti-Doping Organisations, sport and Government and is largely being funded by non-profit FairSport.

The group has pledged to give athletes from across the sporting world a voice and aims to "repair the disconnect" between competitors and leaders of global sports bodies.

It claims to not just focus on doping matters and would also tackle issues such as athlete welfare, harassment and ensuring that athletes receive Olympic revenues or prize money.

The IOC Athletes' Commission clashed with the WADA Athlete Committee and other organisations following the controversial decision to reinstate Russia in September.

But the rift appeared to have softened when the WADA Athlete Committee and the IOC Athletes' Commission, which held opposing views in the fallout to the suspension on Russia being lifted, met in November and agreed to work together to increase athlete representation on sports bodies.

The IOC Athletes' Commission, led by Kirsty Coventry, has reacted angrily to the launch of the Global Athlete Initiative, which currently only features competitors from Western countries.

WADA Athlete Committee chairperson Beckie Scott meanwhile welcomed the move, claiming it was a "a fresh positive new platform for the voice and rights of athletes".

"At this stage we only know about this group from what we have read in a press release and there remain many unanswered questions about universality, accountability and funding," a statement from the IOC Athletes' Commission read.

"It's disappointing that this group seems to believe that none of us care about athletes and that none of us do a good job for athletes if we are a part of the Olympic Movement.

"We don't believe that as athletes we should differentiate ourselves into West vs East, or rich vs poor.

"When we walk on to the field of play we do not judge each other on where we come from or what religion we are, so why would we be more effective in representing athletes only if we come from one specific part of our globe, or only listen to one specific view?

"The IOC Athletes' representatives are democratically elected by their peers from all 206 National Olympic Committees.

"Our many differences and our many different views make us stronger together."

Koehler, who will lead a "listening exercise" due to be carried out over the next six to eight months to gauge opinions of athletes worldwide, insisted the organisation had not been created to compete with existing groups.

He added that it would eventually reach out to the IOC, WADA and the International Paralympic Committee once it had begun the listening exercise.

IPC Athletes' Council chairperson Chelsey Gottell also questioned the launch of the group and why the organisation she leads was not consulted.

"The first thing we want to do is engage everybody," Koehler told insidethegames.

"If we are going to be an athlete-centered organisation, for us to say that the athletes on the IOC Athletes' Commission and the WADA Athlete Committee don’t get it or understand it, that is a short vision.

"They are all athletes and they should all have a voice and contribute to the future of sport.

"Dissenting voices should be listened to, the sceptic voices should be listened to and I think if we do that we can grow into an organisation which is more well-informed and will make better decisions in the future.

"So this is not a competition - this is about putting further balance in sport with meaningful athlete engagement and involvement.

"We are not out here to be a threat, we want to work collaboratively to find joint solutions that can be at the benefit of these athletes.

"When you have that dissenting voice or criticism that this is a threat, I think the most productive thing we can be doing is to ask why and what their concerns are.

"That is how we end up growing and becoming an organisation which is more reflective of the views.

"So those voices are welcomed."

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