The OCA took the unusual step of issuing the strongly worded statement “reminding sports governing bodies to protect the rights of athletes” after six tennis players pulled out of the Asian Games and the Qatar women’s basketball team forfeited their first match.
“The right of the athletes must be the highest priority,” said OCA Director General Husain Al-Musallam.
“Every athlete has the right to represent their country’s flag without discrimination or without the threat of a financial penalty.”
The OCA said six tennis players withdrew from the Asian Games, being held in South Korea, to play in the China Open, a professional event in Beijing, for fear of being fined $100,000 and suspended for three years.
Then on Wednesday, the Qatar women’s basketball team forfeited their opening match with Mongolia at the Asian Games after being refused permission to wear the hijab.
Under International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules, players are not allowed to wear their Islamic headscarves in competition.
However, the Qatari players refused to take them off, saying it violated their religious beliefs, so were deemed to have lost the match on forfeit.
The OCA, which runs the Asian Games, took a dim view of both incidents.
“The authorities of both federations have the duty to protect their athletes and allow them to exercise their right of freedom of choice with dignity,” said Al-Musallam.
The OCA also published a copy of two key points in the Olympic Charter and urged the sporting bodies to consider them.
“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” – Reuters