25 Jul 2008

Iraqi athletes banned from Olympics

5:55 am on 25 July 2008

Athletes from Iraq have been banned from taking part at next month's Beijing Olympic Games.

The team was already the subject of an interim ban after the Iraqi government replaced the country's Olympic committee with its own appointees.

Under the IOC charter, all committees must be free of political influence.

As a result the team of two rowers, two sprinters, one archer, one weightlifter and one judo competitor cannot attend.

The committee which the government dismissed was elected in 2004, in line with the Olympic movement's regulations.

Its chairman, Ahmad al-Samarra'i, and several other members were abducted by gunmen while attending a meeting in central Baghdad in July 2006.

They have not been seen since.

The Iraqi government said it took the move because the committee was corrupt and had not been functioning properly.