Saudi Arabia should be banned from participating in the London Olympics unless it includes a female athlete, says a scathing new report from Human Rights Watch. The nation is one of three that regularly participate in the games that has yet to send a women to the Olympics. Saudi Arabia's "systemic discrimination" against women in sports amounts to an "effective ban" on its participation in top-level competitions, says the report. "Saudi Arabia is an outlier in the international sporting community, and it’s a black eye to the sporting community to have such an outlier participate in the upcoming Olympics,” Human Rights Watch researcher Christopher Wilcke tells the New York Times.
Of the two other nations yet to send a female athlete to the games, Qatar has committed to sending women to London. And both Qatar and Brunei have sent women to regional and international competitions. The International Olympic Committee is violating the Olympic charter by not penalizing Saudi Arabia, said Wilcke. But the IOC is refusing to order the Saudis to send a female athlete to London. “The IOC does not give ultimatums nor deadlines, but, rather, believes that a lot can be achieved through dialogue,” an IOC spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Times. She pointed as progress to Saudi Dalma Rushdi Malhas' milestone participation in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where she won a bronze medal for show jumping. It's almost certain that Malhas won't be part of the London games, however, because she was not included in the Saudi jumping team that qualified for the Olympics in December. (Read more Human Rights Watch stories.)