IOC to punish athletes who refuse to compete for political, religious reasons

London: International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has warned that any athlete not prepared to compete against a competitor for political or religious reasons in London will be heavily punished.

Rogge gave the strong message after an Algerian athlete withdrew from a race against an Israeli rival during a recent World Cup canoeing regatta in Germany.

Rogge said that all 200-plus nations that will be represented in London have been warned that only serious injury would be accepted as an excuse for not competing.

"We have just told all the national Olympic committees that we expect all the athletes to respect the schedule of competition and not to pull out without a good reason for competition against an athlete of another country," Rogge said.

The head of the Algerian Olympic Committee, Rachid Hanifi, said it would be up to the Algerian Government whether its athletes should compete against Israelis at the Games.

The IOC reminded its member nations that failure to compete because of a rival`s religion or nationality would be a breach of its code of ethics and in contravention of the spirit of the Olympic charter.

"It is the responsibility of the national Olympic committee ultimately to decide on the selection of athletes. I was a chef de mission for five Olympic Games and in charge of selection for my NOC. I had come as an athlete from a system where the selection was rather subjective. I found that a bit unfair," he said.


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