Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 1 News List

British Olympic Association backs down after furor

AFP , LONDON

The British Olympic Association (BOA) backed down on Sunday after outrage at its attempts to force athletes competing at this year's games in China to keep silent on controversial political issues.

The BOA confirmed an earlier newspaper report that it had included a clause in a contract for its athletes, requesting them "not to comment on any politically sensitive issues."

The Mail on Sunday newspaper said the BOA had told them that any athlete refusing to sign the agreement will not be allowed to travel and any British participant who signs it and then speaks out during the games will be sent home.

But amid strong protests, BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said he accepted that the "interpretation of one part of the draft BOA's Team Members Agreement appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter."

"This is not our intention nor is it our desire to restrict athletes' freedom of speech and the final agreement will reflect this," he said.

Clegg was earlier quoted by the weekly newspaper as saying that it was not in the interests of the British team for athletes to use the Olympics to publicize the cause of interest groups.

Also see: Hu's 'heir-apparent' given responsibility for Beijing Olympics

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