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‘Athletes became the victims’ –  Kuwait Oly head deplores escalation of dispute

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 20, (AP): The head of Kuwait’s national Olympic committee condemned what he called on Wednesday the “serious escalation” of government interference that could prevent the Gulf nation’s athletes from representing their country at the Rio de Janeiro Games. Sheikh Talal Al Fahad Al Sabah said in a statement that the government has taken “vindictive measures” to justify the actions that led to the Kuwait Olympic Committee’s suspension.

Kuwait was suspended by the IOC in October on grounds of government meddling in sports affairs and the introduction of sports legislation that violates the Olympic Charter. The Kuwaiti government filed a $1.3 billion suit last week against 14 board members of the national Olympic committee. Among those named was Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al- Sabah, the influential head of the Association of National Olympic Committees. “This is a serious escalation of a regrettable sequence of events,” Sheikh Talal said.

On Tuesday, the Kuwaiti government filed suit against the national federations of swimming, volleyball, basketball and soccer. The government also took action against leaders of the national boxing and weightlifting bodies. Sheikh Talal said he regretted that “our dedicated athletes became the real victims.” “After years of hard work our athletes are facing the prospect of not being able to compete at Rio 2016 under the national flag,” he said.

The sheikh called on the government to respect the Olympic Charter, adding that his national committee “will remain ready to find a solution to these matters at the earlier opportunity, for the benefit of all our athletes.” The dispute has been an embarrassment for Sheikh Ahmad, who is a member of Kuwait’s royal family and also serves on FIFA’s executive committee.

Last month, Sheikh Ahmad received a suspended six-month sentence for disobeying a prosecutor’s gag order by discussing a video involving a purported plot to overthrow the government. He said he would appeal, calling it a “personal attack” that was “symptomatic of the current relationship between Kuwait and the sports movement.”

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