Mexico’s Rio Olympics participation under threat

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s participation in next year’s Olympics could be in jeopardy because of a conflict between the government and national sports federations.

The sports bodies are facing financial inspections by a national government agency, which is questioning how funds are being spent.

The International Olympic Committee opposes political interference in national sports bodies. Last month, it suspended Kuwait’s national Olympic committee over government interference, leaving the country’s athletes in limbo for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“It would be a tragedy if Mexico does not participate in the Olympics, although I hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Carlos Padilla Becerra, president of Mexico’s national Olympic committee. “I’m sure this will not happen. Higher-ranking national officials will not prohibit our athletes from competing.”

The Rio Olympics open on Aug. 5, 2016, and close on Aug. 21.

Alfredo Castillo, head of the National Commission of Physical Culture and Sports, has been critical of the Olympic Charter, which among many other things spells out the non-interference rules.

“The Olympic Charter is the best invention that has been created to avoid monitoring of how public money is spent and what it yields,” Castillo said.

Castillo has focused on the national federations that run archery, boxing and basketball, and has looked into others.

Padilla said he met with Castillo but failed to find an agreement. He said he subsequently traveled to Switzerland and met recently with IOC President Thomas Bach. He said he showed Bach documents that he said showed government interference.

“For me the unconditional respect of the Olympic Charter is important,” Padilla said. “All I did was make the facts known to the IOC.”

The IOC did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.

In a statement, Castillo said he would not permit outside forces to meddle in Mexican affairs.

“What’s at stake is not the Olympics but rather the future of sports in the country,” said Castillo, who was appointed earlier this year by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

If Mexico is suspended, its athletes would be barred from representing their country at the Olympics. The IOC could consider giving them special permission to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag, which it has done before for athletes from other countries under suspension.