IOC Considers Serbia Punishment

(ATR) The IOC response to Serbia's ban of Kosovan karate athletes could set precedent for future discrimination cases.

(ATR) The IOC is close to deciding what action it will take against Serbia over the country’s ban on Kosovan karate athletes last month.

The conclusions will likely set a precedent for future cases of countries discriminating against others.

Serbian police last month prevented a delegation of Kosovan athletes from crossing the border and participating in the European Karate Championships in Novi Sad because they carried state symbols. The team made a second attempt to enter Serbia wearing street clothes rather than uniforms but were turned away again.

The ban triggered an angry response from the Kosovan Olympic Committee president and spurred the IOC to open an investigation into the incident.

Pere Miro, the IOC’s deputy director general for relations with the Olympic Movement, told Around The Rings at the time that the IOC was considering punishing Serbia. He said this was in line with the IOC executive board’s "zero tolerance" policy on countries boycotting other nations or blocking individuals from competing in sporting competitions.

The IOC is attempting to stem the growing tide of nationalism disrupting international events, an issue of concern aired at SportAccord in Bangkok.

On Friday, Miro told ATR that the IOC was close to completing its probe into the Serbian government’s interference with the Kosovan delegation’s travel plans.

"The IOC requested a full report from the World Karate Federation, the Serbian NOC and the Kosovo NOC. They have fully cooperated and we have received the reports a few days ago," he said.

"Now we are fine-tuning with some complementary needed information and very soon we will come to a conclusion."

Recent examples of politically motivated cases of discrimination have affected sporting events in Ukraine and Russia, while there have been a range of cases involving Israeli athletes.

At SportAccord in Bangkok, Nenad Lalovic, president of United World Wrestling, called for action from the IOC and ASOIF after raising major concerns about the growing issue of boycotts and discrimination impacting different sports.

Miro today told ATR that the IOC, ASOIF and all the international sports federations "have been working closely together to address these kind of issues since a long time ago on a case-by-case basis".

"We maintain a very close cooperation with all of them in the operational practical side to ensure our maximal efficiency of action when these problems come. Our office secures this coordination on a day-to-day basis."

At SportAccord, the IOC and Association of Summer Olympic International Federations pledged to form a working group to combat issues of nationalism.

Miro said the statements made in Bangkok were referring to a formalization of this structure "in order to be better coordinated, to anticipate these issues and protect the athletes’ participation in all circumstances".

"The IOC will soon formalize this approach with ASOIF, winter federations and ANOC."

The issue is set to be discussed further at next month’s IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne.

Reported by Mark Bisson

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