IOC considers letting athletes post personal diaries

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Olympic athletes may be allowed to
blog for the first time at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The International Olympic Committee said Wednesday it is
considering whether to let athletes post personal diaries on the
Internet -- so long as the Olympic village isn't turned into a "Big
Brother" reality TV show.

Under Olympic rules, athletes, coaches and other team officials
are barred from functioning as a "journalist or in any other media
capacity" during the games. This is meant to protect the rights of
the accredited media.

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

"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

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.