Steven van de Velde at the Beach World Champs in 2023
(BSR Agency / Getty)

Athlete Advocacy Groups Urge the Olympics To Ban Convicted Child Rapist Steven van de Velde

Three athlete advocacy organizations have released a joint statement calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban child rapist Steven van de Velde from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

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Content warning: Descriptions of child abuse

The Summer Olympics are set to begin on July 26. However, many are now considering boycotting the games after the Dutch Olympic Committee selected van de Velde to represent the Netherlands in the Olympics for beach volleyball. The committee has stood by the nomination despite the fact that van de Velde is a convicted child rapist. In 2014, when he was 19, he began communicating with a 12-year-old girl on Facebook and traveled all the way to England to meet her. He plied the child with alcohol and raped her multiple times. Afterward, he returned to the Netherlands, though he was extradited back to the United Kingdom and arrested.

Van de Velde plead guilty to three charges of rape and was sentenced to four years in prison, though he ultimately only served one year. Although his career should’ve been over, the Dutch Volleyball Association permitted him to resume his career almost immediately after his release. It has also doubled down on its support of him and the decision to send him to the Olympics despite outcry.

A petition calling for van de Velde’s disqualification has garnered 26,000 signatures as of this writing and now, several advocacy groups are speaking out.

Athlete advocacy groups call for the IOC to take action

The Sports & Rights Alliance Athletes Network for Safer Sports, The Army of Survivors, and Kyniska Advocacy released a joint statement calling on the IOC to take action against van de Velde. The groups urged the IOC to prohibit van de Velde from participating, stating, “An athlete convicted of child sexual abuse, no matter in what country, should not be awarded the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games.” Kyniska Advocacy’s co-founder, Kate Seary, pointed out how his presence in the Olympics “disrespects and invalidates the survivor of his crimes” and sends a message to all survivors that “sporting prowess trumps crime.”

The Army of Survivors’ executive director, Julie Ann-Rivers Cochran, also pointed out that, contrary to the Dutch Olympic Committee’s arguments, van de Velde has not shown remorse nor proven to be an “exemplary professional and human being.” Instead, he has minimized the seriousness of his crimes, framing it as a mere “misstep.” Joanna Maranhão, network coordinator for the Athletes Network for Safer Sports, reiterated that “being an Olympian is a privilege, not a right.” She also urged the organization to view the issue “through a moral lens” and consider the consequences of allowing van de Velde to be celebrated as an Olympian.

The statement also points to larger issues in the Olympics, such as the lack of background checks for sexual offenses committed by coaches, trainers, or athletes. Ultimately, the statement concluded with three points of action for the IOC to take. It requested that the organization release a statement disqualifying van de Velde from the competition, “review and strengthen the Olympic eligibility criteria for all competitions,” and conduct background checks on all individuals that will have access to the Olympic Village.

So far, the IOC’s only statement has been to clarify it was not involved in the decision to select van de Velde. However, it does have the power to revoke his invitation to the Olympics at any time. Hopefully, it will strongly consider the statement from these athlete advocacy groups who have succinctly explained why van de Velde should not be permitted to compete in the Olympics.

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.