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To blog or not to blog: That is a question for IOC

Updated: 2007-02-09 08:57

The International Olympic Committee will for the first time conduct tightened scrutiny into the content of athletes' blogs during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, AFP reported.

The committee said Wednesday that too much personally-penned information may generate rumors spreading through the Internet that may pose threats to the rights of the accredited media.

Under Olympic rules, athletes, coaches and other team officials are barred from functioning as a "journalist or in any other media capacity" during the Olympic Games. But on-line blogging are not stipulated in the rules.

The IOC athletes' commission discussed the matter with the policy-making executive board Wednesday and expressed support "in principle" for blogging, but said more time was needed to study the issue.

"How do you find the best balance between the principle of fair speech and turning the athletes' village into a Big Brother scenario?" IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "We want to avoid a free-for-all situation."

Davies said some athletes may have blogged at last year's Winter Olympics in Turin, but it would have been "unofficially" and on a limited scale without any rules in place. There will be a much greater push for blogs at the more visible Summer Games in Beijing, and the IOC is trying to define its policy.

A subgroup of the IOC press commission recently concluded that blogging by athletes would not violate Olympic rules.

It proposed that athletes be allowed to blog, on condition they receive no payment, post their entries as a personal "diary or journal" and do not use photos, video or audio obtained at the games.

"Athlete blogs bring a more modern perspective to the global appreciation of the games, particularly for a younger audience, and enhance the universality of the games," the press group said.

Athletes' commission member Bob Ctvrtlik, a former U.S. Olympic volleyball gold medalist, said privacy remained a major concern.

"We don't want the village turned into a reality TV show during the Olympics," he said. "We also want to protect rights that have been sold to sponsors. As of yet we don't have a clear consensus on it."

National Olympic committees are also studying the issue. Any recommendations will be submitted to the executive board for approval. If a formal change in the Olympic Charter or rule book is required, that would go to the full IOC assembly for adoption.

"At this point, that doesn't seem to be the case, but it's open," Davies said.

On another issue, the athletes' commission expressed concern about the possibility of making anti-doping rules more flexible to allow for lighter penalties in certain cases.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, which is currently revising its global code, says it could give more leeway for minor cases instead of a standard two-year suspension -- as well as tougher sanctions for serious abuses.

The IOC panel said it supports the two-year penalty.

"I think we need to be very, very careful in flexibility," said panel chairman Sergei Bubka, the former Olympic pole vault champion and reigning world record holder. "A limit should be established and then go up. It's a very delicate issue. I am concerned if we start to go down."

Ctvrtlik said the consensus was for "more flexibility while maintaining consistency in sanctions."

"You don't want a situation where you get three months in one country and more in another country for the same offense," he said. "The commission supports the standard two-year ban, with still quite a few questions surrounding sanctions in cases where it's accidental or non-intentional."

Also, Ctvrtlik said the IOC is expanding its program to help Olympic athletes find jobs once their sporting careers are over. The initiative, started by Swiss company Adecco in 2005, will go into 10 more countries and all five continents this year. Until now, more than 1,000 athletes in 16 countries have found jobs through the program.

"We want athletes to be able to have it all -- to be a top competitor without falling flat on their faces when the competitions are over," Ctvrtlik said