Afghanistan to have gender equality in Paris, no Taliban allowed

Afghanistan will field a gender-equal team at the Paris Olympics with three women and three men in a largely symbolic move, while no Taliban official will be allowed at the Games, the International Olympic Committee said Thursday.

The Olympic body said fielding a gender-equal team was a message to both Afghanistan, which under Taliban rule has restricted women's and girls' access to sports and gyms, and the rest of the world of what is possible.

Both the head of Afghanistan's national Olympic committee recognized by the IOC and its secretary general are currently in exile, the IOC said.

"We made it clear we wanted a gender-equal team. That was the demand, and that is what we achieved," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said at a news conference.

The Taliban, who say they respect women's rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law and local customs, have closed girls' high schools, placed travel restrictions on women without a male guardian and restricted access to parks and gyms since seizing power in August 2021.

Adams said no Taliban official would be accredited for the Games.

The IOC has said recently it was in talks with both the Afghan NOC and sport authorities "with the aim to reverse the current restrictions on access to sport for women and young girls in Afghanistan."

Afghanistan's male athletes will be competing in athletics, swimming and judo in Paris, while the women will take part in the athletics and cycling competitions, Adams said.

The IOC suspended Afghanistan's NOC in 1999, and the country was barred from the 2000 Sydney Games. Afghanistan was reinstated after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Also Thursday, the new European champion in the men's 10,000 meters, Dominic Lobalu, was invited Thursday by the IOC to run at the Paris Games next month for the Refugee Olympic Team he walked out of in 2019.

If Lobalu chooses to rejoin the team he left five years ago, fueled in part by a dispute over prize money, he could win its first Olympic medal.

Lobalu took 10,000 gold late Wednesday in Rome, adding to his bronze in the 5,000 on Saturday, weeks after World Athletics allowed him to represent Switzerland despite not being a citizen. A refugee from South Sudan, Lobalu has lived and trained in Switzerland since leaving the Olympic program in a dispute over controlling management of runners.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.