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Friday, 18 August, 2000, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
IOC rejects Taleban plea
Gym in Kandahar, Afghanistan
Boxers and wrestlers have been training hard
By regional analyst Pam O'Toole

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rejected an appeal by Afghanistan's Taleban movement to be allowed to send a team to the Sydney Olympics next month.

The IOC says a delegation from the Taleban travelled to Lausanne last week to make the request, but were told that their team cannot participate because the Taleban administration is not internationally recognised.

What IOC says
Taleban government not recognised internationally
What Taleban says
IOC discriminating because Taleban does not allow female athletes
The Taleban are suggesting that the IOC is discriminating against them because they do not propose sending any female athletes to the Games.

The Islamic movement, which controls more than 90% of Afghanistan, believes that its athletes should be allowed to represent the country under the Taleban flag.

Undeterred by the fact that the Olympics' ruling body had already withdrawn its recognition of the Taleban's national Olympic committee, the movement has continued to lobby to compete.

Afghan doing chin-ups
Afghan sportsmen have to follow a strict dress code
But the IOC has said it will not be allowed to enter until it is internationally recognised as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

And so far, there is no sign of that happening.

With only weeks to go before the Games, a spokesman for the IOC said it could now rule out the prospect of the Taleban participating in Sydney.

All-male team

The Taleban - who wanted their all-male team to compete in events such as wrestling and weightlifting - believe they are being unfairly discriminated against because they do not allow women to participate in sport.

They maintain that many other Muslim countries competing in the Olympics do not have females on their teams.

The Taleban may also point to the fact that athletes from East Timor will be allowed to participate in the Games as independent competitors, whereas this right is being denied to Afghan athletes.

But the IOC says this exception was permitted only because the Secretary General of the United Nations intervened on the Timorese athletes' behalf.

The IOC points out that there are other, practical, impediments to Afghanistan's participation.

Even if the Taleban had been allowed to field an Olympic team, their edict that Afghan men must wear beards contravenes international regulations that boxers and wrestlers should be clean-shaven.

Given the fact that the Taleban still do not hold Afghanistan's UN seat, and they are in continuing confrontation with the UN over the delivery of humanitarian aid, the Secretary General is unlikely to intervene on their behalf.

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See also:

10 Aug 00 | South Asia
Taleban's Olympic plea
17 Jul 00 | South Asia
Football tour cut short
26 Oct 98 | South Asia
Boxing ban on bearded Taleban
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
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