The International Sports Law Journal

, Volume 14, Issue 3–4, pp 253–263 | Cite as

The prohibition of political statements by athletes and its consistency with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: speech is silver, silence is gold?

  • Frédérique FautEmail author


For years and years, the Olympic Charter, as the “constitution” of the Olympic movement, encompasses a provision that prevents athletes from making political statements and propaganda at the Olympic sites under the threat of disciplinary sanctions. A broad range of acts and statements have as such been banned and/or sanctioned, the scope and nature of political statement being undefined. Although the policy is upheld by the International Olympic Committee as guardian of the Charter, it can seriously be questioned whether this rule is in conformity with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights laying down the right to freedom of expression. The case law of the European Court of Human Rights shows, amongst others, that preventing persons from making critical remarks or from wearing vestimentary symbols in public via excessive sanctions might interfere with their freedom of (political) expression and therefore with Article 10 of the Convention. Whereas it is true that the rights and freedoms of the Convention do not have horizontal direct effect, in the sense that they are directly applicable in private relationships, States are under a positive obligation to safeguard the rights laid down therein, even in relationships between private parties.


Political statements and propaganda Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter Rights of athletes Human Rights Freedom of expression Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Instituut 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Asser International Sports Law CentreT.M.C. Asser InstituutThe HagueThe Netherlands

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