WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time in five years, Kuwait was suspended by the IOC for political interference on Tuesday, leaving the Gulf country's athletes in limbo for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The IOC executive board said Kuwait's national Olympic committee was suspended in order to "protect the Olympic Movement in Kuwait from undue government interference."
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who heads the global association of national Olympic committees, told The Associated Press on Monday that Kuwait would be suspended.
"As a Kuwaiti I am very sad,'" Sheikh Ahmad said in an interview. "All of us are upset. It's a very sad story."
The move comes after Kuwait failed to amend its disputed sports legislation by the Oct. 27 deadline set by the International Olympic Committee. FIFA suspended Kuwait's soccer association over the same issue two weeks ago.
"The Olympic Movement in Kuwait has faced a number of issues to preserve its autonomy, in particular due to recently amended sports legislation in Kuwait," the IOC said in a statement.
IOC and Kuwaiti officials held talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Oct. 12. The IOC set a deadline of this Tuesday for the issues to be resolved.
"Unfortunately, the deadline expired today with no action having been taken by the Government of Kuwait," the IOC said.
The move means Kuwait is barred from taking part in "any activity connected with the Olympic Movement or exercise any right conferred upon it by the Olympic Charter or the IOC."
All IOC funding to the Kuwait body is cut off, while the IOC said it "reserves the right to take further measures" regarding the participation of Kuwaiti athletes in the Olympics and Olympic-related events.
If the suspension is not lifted before the Olympics in Rio, Kuwaiti athletes would be barred from representing their country at the games. The IOC would consider giving them special dispensation to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag.
"The IOC hopes that all concerned parties will soon reach a satisfactory solution to rectify this very unfortunate situation in the interest of the Olympic Movement in Kuwait and the athletes' participation in the numerous international sporting events coming up, in particular the Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro 2016," the statement said.
Kuwait was suspended by the IOC in 2010, also in a dispute over government interference. The country was reinstated in 2012 ahead of the London Games after Kuwait's ruler, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, pledged autonomy for the Olympic committee and promised new legislation for institutions governing sports.
In recent years, the IOC also suspended the national Olympic bodies of India, Ghana and Panama for political interference, but all were eventually reinstated.
The IOC recently gave Sri Lanka until the end of the year to revise its sports legislation or face suspension.
FIFA suspended Kuwait after it failed to change its sports law by Oct. 15. Kuwaiti teams and clubs are banned from international competition, and the association and its members are barred from receiving any FIFA development assistance.
The IOC suspension comes as Sheikh Ahmad chairs this week's meeting in Washington of the world's national Olympic committees.
The sheikh told the AP that Kuwait is one of the 206 national Olympic committees due to attend the ANOC general assembly on Thursday and Friday. He said the Kuwaiti delegates will be allowed to stay but won't have voting rights.
"I hope there will be an understanding very soon," Sheikh Ahmad said, warning that otherwise a "whole generation of athletes" will suffer.