In recent years, an increasing number of academic studies have highlighted the fact that athletes have little influence on decision-making in international sport. However, these studies have omitted historical perspectives on the organizational structures of the governing bodies of sport that prevented the facilitation of athletes’ representation. This paper explores the struggle for athletes to gain a voice in one of the biggest and most influential Olympic federations, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). In particular, it focuses on the processes of professionalization and commercialization during the 1980s that culminated in the foundation of the Athletes’ Commission in 1989. Drawing on historical documentation from various archives, it is argued that the amateur ideology in athletics and the conservative beliefs of leading IAAF officials prevented active athletes from participating in policy-making. Thus, today’s lack of athletes’ involvement is also a result of sport’s amateur past.

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