Canadian two-time Olympic snowboarder and X-Games champion Drew Neilson told the country’s CBC network this week that he was considering asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to remove him from its historical roster in protest of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Neilson called for a full boycott of the event – a rarity among athletes – and pronounced himself “disgusted” that so many could unquestioningly participate in an event that honors one of the world’s worst human rights violators.
Beijing, already a veteran Olympic host city after 2008, won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics largely due to all other contenders except Almaty, Kazakhstan, dropping out. Human rights activists and the victims of Chinese communism have been calling for the IOC to postpone or relocate the event – or, if the IOC does not, for participants to boycott it – for at least a year. The communist regime under dictator Xi Jinping has engaged in years of rampant human rights atrocities including killing and imprisoning political prisoners, disappearing journalists and human rights attorneys, and – perhaps most alarmingly – open genocide against the Uyghur people and other Muslims in East Turkistan.
“I’m really disgusted. I don’t even want to be called an Olympian anymore,” Neilson, now retired, told the CBC. “The IOC recognizes … human rights as enshrined both in the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter and the code of ethics, and they say the IOC takes this responsibility very seriously. But do they?”
“It just boggles my mind that people can look away from what’s going on in China, just so they can watch people play games for little pieces of metal,” he continued. “That’s really sad and unfortunate.”
Neilson emphasized that he was, as an Olympian, obviously not against the Olympic Games themselves.
“I am against defending the organization that is running it and [the country] they are taking it to,” Neilson asserted.
The champion snowboarder also explicitly rejected “diplomatic boycotts,” a phenomenon where countries do not send political officials to the event but allow the athletes to play. Neilson’s native Canada, like the United States under President Joe Biden, is engaging in a “diplomatic boycott” of Beijing. A diplomatic boycott is not a boycott because political figures do not compete in Olympic sports, so their absence has no effect on the Games.