Quentin Batalillon

General News 2024

Dutch beach volleyball player sentenced to prison for child rape, qualifies for Olympic Games in Paris on behalf of the Netherlands

A Dutch beach volleyball player who served time in prison for raping a child ten years ago will represent the Netherlands at this year’s Olympic Games.

Steven van de Velde, now 29, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2014 for raping the 12-year-old girl, British media reported. He was released in 2017.

He has now been selected to represent the Netherlands in beach volleyball at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

“We know Steven’s history,” said Michel Everaert, general manager at Nevobo – the Dutch Volleyball Association – in a statement.

Everaert said the federation had spoken extensively with the Dutch National Olympic Committee (NOC), the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) and van de Velde before his return to the sport.

“He was convicted under English law at the time and served his sentence. Since then, we have been in constant contact with Steven, who has now fully reintegrated into the Dutch volleyball community,” Everaert said in the statement.

Van de Velde served part of his sentence in England before being transferred to the Netherlands, where he was released and returned to playing in 2017, according to Nevobo.

In 2018, Van de Velde told NOS: “I did what I did. I can’t take it back, so I’ll have to suffer the consequences. You can judge of course. It is the biggest mistake of my life.”

“He proves to be an exemplary professional and human being and there is no reason to doubt him since his return,” said Everaert.

The federation noted that Van de Velde was aware that this “black period in his life” would resurface “but is obviously not happy about it.”

Van de Velde said in a statement from the Nevobo that he was grateful for the opportunity.

“I understand that this could attract the attention of international media in the run-up to the largest sporting event in the world,” said Van de Velde.

“Because of the second chance I was given by my parents, my friends, acquaintances and colleagues, who accepted me again after the biggest mistake in my then young life,” he said.

“I am also grateful to the Dutch volleyball federation, because they offered me a future in this beautiful sport again, with clear conditions and agreements. But I also think back to the teenager I was, who was insecure, not ready for a life as a top athlete and unhappy inside, because I didn’t know who I was and what I wanted.”

Nevobo and the Dutch NOC said in a statement that they supported Van de Velde, adding that they, together with the FIVB, had consulted experts who considered his chance of reoffending to be ‘zero’.

“After his conviction and sentence, Steven van de Velde returned step by step to the highest sporting level under expert guidance from, among others, probation and coaching. Since 2017, he has been participating in international tournaments again,” Nevobo said in a statement.

The Dutch NOC added that van de Velde returned to professional sports based on its guidelines, “which include the conditions under which top athletes can return after a conviction.”

“Van de Velde now meets all qualification requirements for the Olympic Games and is therefore part of the team,” the committee said.

The International Olympic Committee told CNN that “the nomination of individual team members, after qualification on the playing field, is the sole responsibility of each respective National Olympic Committee. For further information we therefore refer to the Dutch NOC.”

Ju’Riese Colon, CEO of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, said in a statement to CNN that the organization was “deeply concerned that anyone convicted of sexually abusing a minor would be able to compete in the 2024 Olympics.”

“With teams from all over the world about to gather in Paris, many of whom are small athletes, it sends a dangerous message that medals and money are more important than their safety. Participation in sport is a privilege, not a right,” she added.

CNN’s Mick Krever contributed to the reporting.

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