Code of good practices, ethical charters

As for companies, following the studies by Cadbury and others, codes of good behaviour or ethical codes have also appeared in the world of sport. In fact, it is the Olympic Charter by Baron Pierre de Coubertin which first took measures concerning ethics in the domain of sport. The IOC’s ethical code, which was revised in 2009, has been steadily improving due to new challenges and issues facing sport in the media, human evolution and the issues faced by all other stakeholders in sport. To control or manage complaints regarding non-compliance to the ethical code, the IOC created an ethics commission ten years ago.

Between 2007 and February 2008, the IOC worked on governance principles in sport and published a draft document entitled “Basic Universal Principles of good governance in the Olympic Movement and sport” that gives all sports organisations in the world a glimpse of the mission and strategy of sports development, the vision of the structures, rules and democratic processes, the high level of competence, integrity and ethical standards, definitions of accountability, transparency and control, an explanation of solidarity and development and the involvement of athletes, and their participation, and their importance.

Strangely enough, the IFs do not formally belong to these “Olympic parties” referred to in the IOC Code of Ethics. Moreover, the penalties provided by the Olympic Charter are only in relation to the participation of individuals or organisations within the Olympic Competition. They do not affect any other areas of sport. Several IFs and NOCs have their own ethical codes and committees, including regulations on conflicts of interest and rules of “good governance” (Chappelet2006).

For the other countries and rights, IFs do not have any special protection. As described by Chappelet (2006), the IOC is mentioned every two years in the resolutions of the UN General Assembly about the Olympic Truce (UNIC 2005)[1]. It was also mentioned in the resolutions of the UNESCO concerning doping. The IOC is recognised by the Nairobi Treaty (1981) as the owner of the Olympic symbol (interlocking rings). Yet, this does not give any legal force to the Olympic Charter.

In many national constitutions and in the draft of the European Constitution, sport sometimes plays a significant part (Danish constitution). These texts provide the basic framework of collective life which cannot escape sport, the IOC or the IFs.  Several principles found in the constitutional provisions and recommendations of intergovernmental organisations are written in the preamble to the Olympic Charter, i.e. respect for “universal fundamental ethical principles”, the right to sport as a human right, preservation of human dignity, solidarity, non discrimination, the organisation and management of sport organisations independently of public governments and businesses, the educational value of sport, etc.. (Chappelet 2006).

It was also at the end of the twentieth century that the term “governance” appeared in the Olympic circles, particularly under the influence of American journalists and Olympic sponsors. Thereafter, it was introduced formally in the Olympic Charter in 2004 (CIO 2004, Rule 19.3.2). This sudden concern for governance stemmed from the dysfunctions mentioned above, but also – since the 1980s – from the gradual professionalisation of international sports organisations and the growing interest of different stakeholders – including the member-States, the European Union and sponsors – for the running of the Olympic System (Chappelet 1991). This system was certainly one of the last and oldest ones to govern itself via a network using consensual and horizontal mechanisms for coordination. Its fragile balance was suddenly called into question by new types of public players or traders wishing to participate in its governance because of the opacity of its management compared to its “social responsibility”, (Chappelet2001).

[1] UNIC (2005) United Nations & Olympic Truce: United Nations Center and International Olympic Truce Center.