This is not about me. This is not a Christian-Taylor-matter. But I had to do something, it was high time. Therefore I brought The Athletics Association into being, an organization for Track & Field athletes. Justice and fairness have always been very important, this is something my parents were teaching me right from the beginning. I have a younger sister, Kaitlyn. The goal of our parents was always to treat us the same, to treat us both with the same respect, to give us both the same love. They always wanted to give us the same opportunities.
Coming to the International Association of Athletic Federations, IAAF, now calling itself World Athletics. There already was a lack of fairness in our sport, and they enlarged it. The children of "Track & Field" are the different disciplines, but the athletes were not getting the same possibilities for quite a long time. Not getting the same TV coverage. Not getting the same social media attention. Not getting the same presentation.
They say, they made surveys about the popularity of disciplines. They say, they asked organizers and spectators. But how can you judge something fairly if you never had the same opportunity to see all the disciplines? Just for example: For the triple jump we got maybe 30 seconds TV-coverage in the past Diamond League events. And for other field events it was similar. But the coverage of the 100-m-finals includes the introduction of the runners, the preparation, the race and the review of the race. So for sure people got a deeper understanding of this events than for the triple jump or the discus throw.
And I have never seen any result of any survey, nobody has. If there were results they would have published them for sure. This would be something people could hold on to. In sports it is all about numbers. Numbers do not lie. If you make a study and you have an outcome, people would say, okay, fine. They say, a study was taken. But we don’t even know who really was asked. And we have never seen the results. We are still left in the dust. This is not fair at all.
The Athletics Association is constantly growing. Right now there are more than 500 registered. We have a very high engagement level. These days we have to do a lot of paperwork to get the association registered. We need to have the legal backing to be properly recognized in the public, but also in the world of athletics. Right now essentially it is still a concept and a club.
I am writing to athletes, to coaches, to managers all over the world. We are trying to reach every athlete, every country, every market. We are really trying to make this about all athletes all over the world. We want to go broader, we want to reach the audience. This is not just a self-effort. The athletes of course are the center of this movement. But we also understand the power and the importance of the fans. And we want the fans to understand for what we are fighting. That we are willing to work with them to produce the best show we can.
The work is certainly a lot. Right now I am either on the phone or emailing all day almost every day. It helps that I am in the foreseason. Of course to be a fulltime athlete, to be a hundred percent focussed on the sport – this would be the most important thing for an athlete. To really be in the zone, to reach full potencial, you need to be a hundred percent committed. But I had to react, we had to react to the dicision World Athletics made. It was their decision to jeopardize the olympic games for many athletes. There are just a few months to go, and many athletes have to change their preparation for Tokyo 2020.
How long is it that you get pushed and you get pushed and you get pushed until you stand up and say: enough is enough!
So of course I am not training with everything I could. Emotionally and physically this is taking a slice off. We are investing a lot of time and effort into this.
But: we must do something. And when I see progress with the association, with the people that are registering – this is giving me a lot.
Some weeks ago I was in Vienna in Austria to celebrate my fiances graduation in medicine. Beate is a worldclass hurdler, and that she was receiving her doctorate was extremely inspirational. She is a role model, not just for me. She is a role model for many athletes. I know her and I see the dedication she was putting into her studies, into the research and into writing. Her thesis was actually in English, so there was a lot she had to read in German and to convert into English and vice versa. Beate was investing so many hours, so many days, weeks and months. It is admirable that she still trained at a very high level. She was able to commit her heart and soul to both. She went to the olympic games and the world championships, in London 2012 she finished eighth.
Why is it that athletes in track and field do not have enough influence? How could it come to this point? I believe it is because the athletes allowed it. Years ago someone started saying: you as an athlete should focus on your performance and let someone else take care of the rest, of the organization, of sponsorship, of politics. And that became the norm, that became the culture. Unfortunately now we got to a stage where athletes have little to no influence on the direction of how the sport is run.
I am not saying an athlete should be the president of World Athletics. Let’s stay realistic. You can not fly all over the world, you can not be involved with so many things outside of athletics and also be a fulltime athlet. But influence is very important. Athletes should be at the table. We want to have our voice in every council, in every commission, on every panel. We must be there.
Athletes are young, and young people are often creative and innovative. You can say, there was an athletes commission in the IAAF, you can say, we had someone sitting there. But sometimes athletes were sitting there not even raising there head. And how much influence would they have on a decision? Did it mean anything if they said no? Who falls under the umbrella of a federation must keep still. In the end of the day you do not want to be kicked out.
That is why The Athletes Association is so important. Because it has to be and always will be independent. If you are independent you have no fear, you have no worry that you will be kicked out.
I have learned about Jean-Marc Bosman whose case changed a lot for soccer in Europe. If my name will be remembered in twenty years in connection with The Athletes Association it would be amazing. But, again, this is not what drives me. I say: WE are working on something. This is not a Christian-Taylor-effort. This is a team-effort.
I feel responsible. I can’t tell you how many times I have apologized to a hammer thrower. I said I had no idea how you felt so excluded for all these years. It was not until this diamond league decision. This was like a slap in the face.
Of course no one is ever gonna be happy with everything. This is life.
But there is a point when enough is enough. And it is really too much now. They overstepped the mark.
As I said I will be grateful if in twenty years people are saying: Wow, it was great how Christian Taylor took a stand. But if I am not remembered at all but the changes were made, I will be very grateful. Because it is not about me. It is not about the triple jump. It is about how we can fight for each other and for the entire body of Track & Field.
This is not the first effort. Years ago the swimmers have done something very similar. They threatened to start their own league – and the swimming federation had to jump on. Tennisplayers were announcing they could start their own circuit. Soon they got better conditions from their association. We are inspired by other sports. We are the entertainers, we are the show. We are the ones that people are coming to watch, that people are inspired by.
One and a half hours. World Athletics is claiming they had to cut the diamond league meetings from two to one and a half hours to be more attractive for TV stations. This is nonsense! Not thinking of being creative or innovative, but looking for an easy outlet. You can not say that two hours are boring, but 90 minutes will be the solution. For sure a show can last for two hours if it is exciting enough to reach the fans. If so many people, for example, can watch six hours of golf, how can athletics not find a way to do the same? We cannot cut the show. If we cut the show we just point up that we are not creative. We should try to produce a better show.
Lord of the rings, Harry Potter, you name it – there are so many movies lasting for more than two hours. And even children have no problem with that. So it depends on the quality of the show, not on the duration.
World Association fired a quick shot. I do not say I or we have all the answers. But why were we not asked, why were we not spoken to? The are so many questions. We are just told: we must change, we must try new things. Well, this is no problem. No one would disagree with this.
It is very frustrating when you sit at a table with the responsible gentlemen. And then you are told: well, this year is locked, this year is done, so we must focus now on 2021. This is very frustrating.
We were told that the 200 meters were taking out of the schedule of the diamonds meetings this year, because they would conflict with the 100 meters.
But not every 200 meters runner is a strong 100 meters runner. It should be the athletes decision wether they want to do 100 or 200 meters. Or even to do both.
There are two athletes who have won seven Duiamond League titles, that’s the french pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie and me in the triple jump. But I won’t be able to go for an eighth title. Now we are tied. Renaud can go and run away with this, and I have no chance to defend it. I have no chance to fight for it.
Did I want to quit because of this? No, I would never do that. The sport, my sport, is so much bigger than the diamond league. It is historic. Track & Field has a extremely strong significance in the olympic movement. It is one of the original sports of all time. I still have the opportunity to represent my country on the biggest stage which is the olympic games, and I am still dreaming of my third Olympic title in a row.
Neither was striking an option. I am an easy person, I always was. I am not looking to fight. From the very beginning The Athletics Association wants to work with World Athletics. We can make a difference together, we can improve things together. Fighting and striking and rebelling for me is not the way. If the fans would rebel now, we lose even more. This would be the biggest harm.
If I am looking forward, I hope, one year from now I will have more time for myself. I hope, we have more influence and no decisions are made without The Athletics Association. I hope that every professional Track & Field athlete is registered. If anybody has a problem, he or she should know this is an organization that fights for them. This is a voice for them. They can ask for help. There are thousands athletes who say: We stand beside you.
We do not just stand in the center of the show, we are the show. To change the program of the meetings, to get disciplines back into the diamond league is only one of the steps we want to make. But The Athletics Association has so many aims. The biggest aim, again, ist to be influencal. To have a voice. It is high time. (Fritz Neumann, 8.2.2020)