THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch beach volleyball player convicted and imprisoned 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 open 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 in the run-up to the biggest sporting event in the world, this can attract the attention of international media,” Van de Velde said in a statement posted on the website of the Netherlands Volleyball Federation. “I cannot reverse it, so I will have to bear the consequences. It has been 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 reportedly got to know online. He was transferred to the Netherlands under a treaty between the countries, and resentenced according to Dutch law.

“After his release, Van de Velde sought and received professional counseling. He has demonstrated to those around him — privately and professionally — self-insight and reflection,” the federation said.

It added that both the federation and the Netherlands Olympic Committee, as well as the international volleyball federation, “rely on the opinions of experts who consider the chance of recidivism nil.”

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

“Van de Velde now meets all the 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 highly sensitive matter” but said team selection is the responsibility of the national Olympic committee “while respecting the eligibility criteria.”


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