Volleyball player convicted of rape allowed to compete in Paris Olympics

A child safeguarding charity said that 'contact between a convicted child rapist and athletes under the age 18 also represents a serious safeguarding risk'.

A convicted paedophile beach volleyball player who raped a 12-year-old British girl is set to represent the Netherlands at the Paris Olympics.

Steven van de Velde, now 29, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016. He admitted to three counts of rape against a child, which took place in August 2014.

He met the victim on Facebook, then travelled from Amsterdam to the UK and raped the child at her home in Milton Keynes when her mother was out.

He served his sentence in the Netherlands but was released after 12 months.

Van de Velde was allowed to resume his volleyball career and has completed in international tournaments since 2018 after demonstrating “self-insight and reflection,” the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC) said.

He qualified for the Olympics in his national pair with his partner, Matthew Immers.

The Dutch Olympic Committee told BBC Sport that the convicted paedophile has met “all qualification criteria for the Olympic Games”.

It said: “After his release, Van de Velde sought and received professional counselling. He demonstrated to those around him – privately and professionally – self-insight and reflection.”

The NOC added that Van de Velde’s comeback to the sport complied with the “Guidelines Integrity Record” of the Dutch Volleyball Federation (NeVoBo), which outlines the conditions for athletes to resume competition following a conviction.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chimed in that the nomination of individual team members is “the sole responsibility of each respective National Olympic Committee”.

Keeping Children Safe, an international non-profit organisation that advocates for child safeguarding, expressed “serious” concerns with the NOC’s decision.

Speaking to ITV News, a Keeping Children Safe spokesperson said: “Child sexual abuse is a devastating crime, with lifelong impacts for the child.

“All organisations are responsible for safeguarding children and prioritising the rights and dignity of children subjected to abuse, including the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC).

“A decision to allow a convicted child rapist to represent the Netherlands at the Paris Olympics is likely to be extremely distressing for survivors of child abuse across the world.

“Potential contact between a convicted child rapist and athletes under the age 18 also represents a serious safeguarding risk.”

In interviews with Dutch media Van de Velde said he can not “reverse” his “mistake”.

“I can’t reverse it, so will have to bear the consequences. It has been the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.

In another statement provided by the NOC, the convicted paedophile said: “In 2016 and afterwards, several Dutch media also paid attention to the story. I understand that in the run-up to the biggest sporting event in the world, this can attract the attention of international media.”

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