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‘Olympics can’t stop athletes taking a knee,’ says Callum Skinner

Callum Skinner has said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can’t stop athletes taking a knee to protest racial injustice at this summer’s Tokyo Games.

The retired British Olympic track cyclist, who won gold in the Team Sprint at Rio 2016, told Reuters: “If an athlete wants to take the knee, they will take the knee” and that the IOC seemed “intent on exercising control when they don’t have any”.

The IOC’s Rule 50 prohibits any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in venues and any official Olympic area. Last week, it was decided this rule should be upheld after more than 3,000 athletes were consulted, IOC Athletes’ Commission boss Kirsty Coventry saying the majority supported it.

“People get frustrated by ‘Black Lives Matter’ because they see it as a political movement, but at its core, it’s fighting for equality and that is something the Olympics should 100 per cent stand behind,” Skinner added.

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There have been mounting calls for the Olympics to change the rule in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. At the 2020 Tour de France, there was criticism of the small gesture of solidarity afforded on the final stage, and Kévin Reza, the only black rider in the race, has said nothing much has changed since last summer.

“I heard a lot of talk but didn’t see much action taken in the different organisations who manage our sport. It’s a pity but that’s how it is,” Reza told CyclingNews.

“They won’t be the pioneers of true change,” American hammer thrower Gwen Berry said of the IOC’s position on Rule 50. “They have their own agenda and it’s to protect [the] billions of dollars they generate from the Olympic Games.”

The Tokyo Olympic Games is set to begin on July 23, having been delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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