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THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery. – Thomas Jefferson

The Philippine Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission staged a successful webinar on “Rights and Responsibilities of the National Athletes” Saturday morning. It was led by Pilipinas Obstacle Sports Federation (POSF) president Atty. Alberto Agra, who thoroughly explained the intricacies of the relationship between national athletes and their respective national sports associations (NSAs). Close to 80 athletes, officials of various sports, media and other observers attended.

Agra prefaced the talk with the caveat that many aspects of the relationships to be discussed did not have governing rules or entities, making them even murkier. He also said that, under the 1987 Constitution, “The State… shall promote total human liberation and development.” He went on to delineate the differences between the various government agencies involved in sports, such as the Philippine Sports Commission, Games and Amusements Board, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, National Academy of Sports, and the various local government units.

Under Republic Act 10699, there are various benefits that national athletes are entitled to. Among them are allowances, 20 percent discount in hotels, restaurants, theaters and sports equipment dealers. They may also get free medical and dental consultations at government hospitals; maternity, death and funeral benefits; and use of athletes’ living quarters through the Philippine Sports Commission. They also receive tax-free cash incentives for medals won in competitions like the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and Olympic Games, and their counterparts like the ASEAN Para Games on up.

There are several rules that should preside over the dealings between athletes and NSAs or in legal parlance, law between parties. There are the International Federation (IF) rules, NSA rules and practices, the Olympic Charter and International Olympic Committee (IOC) declarations, PSC policies, POC policies, and relevant laws. For example, for IF rules, Section 1 of the FIBA Code of Ethics states that “Safeguarding the dignity of the individual is a fundamental requirement of FIBA. Furthermore, it adds that “There shall be no discrimination between participants on the basis of race, sex, ethnic origin, religion, philosophical or political opinion, marital status or other grounds,” and “No practice constituting any form of physical or mental injury to the participants will be tolerated.” Also “All forms of harassment against participants, be it physical, mental, professional or sexual, are prohibited. Lastly, “The basketball parties shall guarantee to the players, conditions of safety, well-being and medical care favourable to their physical and mental equilibrium.” (All italics mine.)

Agra explained that, unfortunately for individual or team athletes, particularly those who are not permanent members of national teams, there is no independent third party to review their compensation agreements. They are pretty much on their own. And even when they have professional management teams, some NSAs try to circumvent them to cut costs by trying to deal directly with the athlete or a family member. This puts a strain on the relationships among all parties on the athlete’s side.

Meanwhile, Agra eloquently illustrated the various ways an aggrieved athlete may seek redress. The NSA would have its own grievance procedure, alternative dispute resolution and by-laws. The POC has committees on ethics, arbitration, the Safe Sports Commission and the Athletes’ Commission. Outside of that, there would be the IF, PSC, Securities and Exchange Commission, the courts, the expensive Court of Arbitration for Sport, and lastly but unfortunately, social media. But sadly, since IFs are reluctant to get involved in internal NSA matters, some local sports officials feel like they don’t have to answer to anybody.

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