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The Dutch beach volleyball player who served a prison sentence for rape has qualified for the Olympic Games in Paris

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch beach volleyball player convicted and jailed eight years ago for raping an underage girl in Britain has qualified for the Paris Olympics.

Steven van de Velde and partner Matthew Immers were one of two men’s teams from the Netherlands that qualified for the beach volleyball competition at the Paris Games, which start on July 26 in the French capital. Most beach pairs qualify for the 24-team Olympic field by earning points on the international tour; Van de Velde and Immers were 11th on the points list.

“I understand that this could attract the attention of international media in the run-up to the largest sporting event in the world,” Van de Velde said in a statement on the website of the Dutch Volleyball Federation. “I can’t undo it, so I’ll have to suffer the consequences. It was the biggest mistake of my life.”

Van de Velde was sentenced to four years in prison in Britain after being convicted in 2016 of having sex with an underage girl he allegedly met online. He was transferred to the Netherlands under a treaty between the countries and sentenced again under Dutch law.

“After his release, Van de Velde sought and received professional guidance. He has shown self-insight and reflection to the people around him – privately and professionally,” the federation said.

It added that both the federation and the Dutch Olympic Committee, as well as the international volleyball federation, “rely on the opinion of experts who consider the risk of recidivism to be nil.”

The Dutch Olympic Committee said Van de Velde, now 29, met the conditions to return after a conviction and resumed his career in 2017 “after an intensive professionally supervised process.”

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

The International Volleyball Federation said it “recognizes that this is a very sensitive issue” but said team selection is the responsibility of the national Olympic committee “subject to the eligibility criteria.”

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Summer Olympics AP: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games