The Panam Sports Athletes' Commission held discussions on Rule 50 ©Panam Sports

The Panam Sports Athletes' Commission has held a meeting on Rule 50, with potential modifications rather than abolishment the focus of discussions.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter is designed to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Movement and states: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The rule has come into focus in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd in the United States, which has prompted athlete activism around the Black Lives Matter movement.

The cases of hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden were highlighted as part of discussions on Rule 50, with the two athletes protesting at last year's Pan American Games in Lima.

Berry and Imboden were placed on a year's probation by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee after breaching Games rules by protesting on the podium.

Panam Sports said its Athletes' Commission held a virtual meeting which centered on discussions around Rule 50.

The meeting was reportedly attended by 68 athlete leaders from 38 of the 41 countries which comprise Panam Sports.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission vice-chair Danka Bartekova, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Athlete Committee chairman Ben Sandford and WADA's director of Latin America Maria Jose Pesce were also present.

Panam Sports President Neven Ilic and secretary general Ivar Sisniega also participated in discussions.

A "spirited debate" is said to have taken place on the merits and drawbacks of Rule 50, with the discussions claimed to be centered on modifications to the rule rather than scrapping it entirely. 

Athlete leaders from more than eight countries were reported to have provided their feedback and possible solutions during the two-hour discussion.

"As the athletes of the Americas, we are taking the initiative to speak to other athlete leaders and brainstorm ways we can express our beliefs or create guidelines that enable this expression," said Aliann Pompey, the Athletes' Commission President.

Discussions around Rule 50 have emerged following protests at the Pan American Games last year ©Getty Images
Discussions around Rule 50 have emerged following protests at the Pan American Games last year ©Getty Images

"Our discussions were the first step in understanding the greater athlete perspective, which is vital in our mission to find a resolution that benefits athletes throughout the world.

"Every member of our Commission is ready to engage individually with all athletes who are eager to share their recommendations."

Bartekova reportedly said any possible solution around Rule 50 must consider all points of view and be inclusive for athletes around the world, including the importance of respecting the podium moments of athletes.

Under existing guidelines issued by the IOC Athletes' Commission, protests are defined as "displaying any political messaging, including signs or armbands", "gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling" and "refusal to follow the Ceremonies protocol".

The guidelines state that each incident "will be evaluated by their respective National Olympic Committee, International Federation and the IOC, and disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis as necessary".

Panam Sports and its Athletes' Commission say they are committed to providing platforms for athletes to express and share their opinions.

Surveys are now set to be sent to athletes in the region for their input and potential recommendations on a way forward.

The Athletes' Commission will then compile recommendations and share them with the IOC for a review.

The IOC last month vowed to hold a consultation process on Rule 50, which potentially could lead to the rule being reviewed.

Panam Sports said the virtual meeting also included updates given by the Athletes' Commission on the efforts to help athletes during the coronavirus pandemic.

WADA's updates on advancements made to the anti-doping whereabouts application and clarifications regarding in and out-of-competition testing were also covered.