Convicted child rapist wins Olympic spot for Dutch volleyball

THE HAGUE: A Dutch volleyball player convicted of raping an underage girl in 2016 has been controversially selected to represent the Netherlands in the Olympic beach volleyball competition in Paris.

Steven van de Velde, now 29, was sentenced to four years in prison after confessing three times to raping a 12-year-old girl, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph.

He served part of his sentence in Great Britain and was then transferred to the Netherlands, where he was eventually released and returned to volleyball in 2017.

“We know Steven’s history,” said Michel Everaert, general manager of the Dutch Volleyball Federation (Nevobo), in a statement.

“He was convicted at the time under English law and served his sentence,” Everaert said.

Nevobo and the Dutch Olympic Committee consulted experts who concluded that there is “zero chance” that Van de Velde will commit another violation.

The Telegraph quoted British judge Francis Sheridan as saying when sentencing the player: “Your hopes of representing your country now lie like a shattered dream.”

But Everaert said Van de Velde had “fully reintegrated into the Dutch volleyball community.”

“He has proven to be an exemplary professional and human being and there has been no reason to doubt him since his return.”

The association also quoted the player himself, who admitted that he had made “the biggest mistake of my then young life”.

“I can’t take it back, so I’ll have to face the consequences,” he is reported to have said.

His selection seems to have been more of a story outside the Netherlands than in its own media.

According to the AD, there was ‘commotion in the foreign media’ about Van de Velde.

“I understand that this could attract the attention of the international media in the run-up to the biggest sporting event in the world,” the player said, as quoted by his association.