Guatemala in danger of being suspended by the IOC

Thomas Bach IOC virtual presser 9 8 21 (IOC)
Thomas Bach IOC virtual presser 9 8 21 (IOC)

If by September 7 the Guatemalan courts do not revoke an alleged violation of the Olympic Charter, the International Olympic Committee could withdraw recognition of the National Olympic Committee.

The suspension of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee would mean that its athletes will not be able to represent their country in the Olympic cycle competitions heading to Paris 2024. If they competed, they would do so without the flag, the anthem and the national uniforms.

The IOC’s punishment would also imply that Guatemala would have to give up organizing the Central American Games scheduled together with Costa Rica starting next October 27.

Guatemalan sport is affected by a struggle for control of the national Olympic movement through a legal battle that has lasted 10 months.

In a letter sent last week by the director of Relations with the National Olympic Committees and Olympic Solidarity, James Mcleod, to the president of the COG, Gerardo Aguirre, he stated:

“The IOC has been informed of the recent provisional decision made by the Constitutional Court regarding the Statutes and Regulations of the NOC of Guatemala, which, if confirmed, would prevent the NOC of Guatemala from complying with the Olympic Charter.

“Consequently, it is expected that this provisional decision will be lifted after the hearing no later than August 31, 2022 and otherwise there would be no other option but to refer it to the IOC Executive Board for appropriate action according to the Rule 27.9 of the Olympic Charter as already mentioned in our letter of July 1, 2022.

“We sincerely hope that reason prevails in the interest of the Olympic Movement and the athletes in Guatemala and we ask you to keep us informed of any other developments on this issue,” the letter finally stated.

The IOC Executive Board has its next meeting scheduled for September 7-9 in Lausanne.

Rule 27.9 of the Olympic Charter states: “Apart from the measures and sanctions provided for in case of violation of the Olympic Charter, the IOC Executive Board may adopt all appropriate decisions for the protection of the Olympic Movement in the country of an NOC, including the suspension or withdrawal of the NOC in question, if the Constitution, legislation or any other regulation in force in said country or if the attitude of the government or any other entity threatens the activity, expression of words or will of the NOC in question.

“Before making such a decision, the IOC Executive Board will give the NOC the opportunity to be heard,” the Olympic Charter clarifies.

For its part, the COG He will have a hearing in the next few days before the Office of the Prosecutor for Constitutional Affairs, to present his arguments and exculpatory evidence. This appearance is expected to be before August 31.

As reality has shown, when the IOC suspends an NOC, the majority of the International Federations subsequently support the decision with a wide range of restrictions on the participation of the sanctioned country in the respective sports in their different levels.

The reaction of the Guatemalan athletes was immediate and they demanded that the local justice system rectify its provisional decision.

Magistrates of the Constitutional Court resolved on August 4 to provisionally suspend the statutes of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee, so the elections in which Gerardo Aguirre was declared the winner on March 24 could be annulled.

With four votes in favor and the dissenting vote of a magistrate, the plenary session resolved to leave the COG statutes that were issued in December and that had already been approved by the IOC without validity, indefinitely. The Court thus resolved an amparo filed by the Electoral Court of Federated Sports (Tedefe).

Tedefe filed an action of unconstitutionality against the signing of the new statutes of the COG and the re-election of Gerardo Aguirre as head of the Executive Committee, after the new elections that took place in March of this year.

Both the IOC and Panam Sport, through “in situ” observers, endorsed the election of Aguirre as well as the new statutes. The IOC had warned that if it did not recognize this process, it would withdraw recognition from Guatemala.

The COG has ensured that the violation of the Olympic Charter is the result of government interference in this eventful process.

“The IOC has already recognized the election of Gerardo Aguirre as president and if another committee arrives, it will not have the backing. In the law it is clear that in case of contradictions, the Olympic Charter prevails,” said Francisco Ardón, press officer at the COG and at the Autonomous Sports Confederation of Guatemala.

“We are not against the athletes, they have been misinformed about a possible sanction. We have been respectful, we are not violating the autonomy of the sport and our goal is to respect our athletes,” said former soccer player Jorge Rodas, who led the list winner of the controversial elections in October. The Rodas list was the only one that was nominated after Aguirre’s was vetoed. Rodas won with nine valid votes and 28 null votes, out of 37 registered voters.

The IOC has increased its monitoring of cases of government interference in sport, although there is still work to be done in some areas of the world.

In November 2014, the IOC received an important accolade with the recognition of the General Assembly of the United Nations in a resolution approved by consensus, a year after Thomas Bach emphasized the need for the autonomy of sport in a speech at the headquarters of the UN in New York

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