BERLIN: The Olympics ruling body said it had no role in Dutch volleyball’s decision to pick a convicted rapist for the Paris Games, a selection criticised by an advocacy group for women in sport.

Steven van de Velde was sentenced to four years in prison in Britain in 2016 following the rape of a 12-year-old girl two years earlier when he was 19.

After serving part of his sentence there, he was transferred to the Netherlands and his sentence was adjusted to the standards of Dutch law. Van de Velde has been competing in beach volleyball again since 2017 and was named last month in the Dutch Olympic team.

“The nomination of individual team members, following qualification on the field of play, is the sole responsibility of each respective National Olympic Committee,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said.

Neither Van de Velde nor the Dutch Olympic team’s beach volleyball coach could be immediately reached for comment.

The selection of athletes for the Olympics rests with each national NOC though the IOC does send individual invitations following the national nominations.

The IOC has the right either not to issue invitations or to withdraw them before or during the Olympics.

It declined to issue Paris Games invitations to some Russian and Belarusian athletes who had met qualifying criteria following a vetting process related to their active support of the war in Ukraine or contractual links to Russia’s military.

Some athletes and rights groups have opposed Van de Velde’s nomination.

“Van de Velde’s presence on the Dutch Olympic team completely disrespects and invalidates the survivor of his crimes,” said Kate Seary, co-founder & director of Kyniska Advocacy which works for the protection and respect of women in sports.

“His participation sends a message to everyone that sporting prowess trumps crime.”

Van de Velde has the backing of his country’s volleyball federation [Nevobo] and national sports federation.

“Before he [Van de Velde] expressed his desire to return to beach volleyball at the time, we spoke extensively with him but also with the NOC... among others,” Michel Everaert, Nevobo’s general secretary said. “We fully support him and his participation in Paris.”

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2024

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