Berlin - A German women's beach volleyball duo have sparked international headlines after they announced they would not travel to Qatar for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event - because of tournament rules banning female competitors from wearing sports bikinis in play.

Karla Borger and Julia Sude decided to boycott the competition, one of their sport's most prestigious international titles, because of the dress code requiring them to cover up in short-sleeved T-shirts and knee-length trousers. "We're there to do our work, but we are being denied our work clothes," Borger said. "This is really the only country and the only tournament where we are being told by a government how to do our work, and we are criticising that." 

Now the pair's manager has spoken out, accusing the organisers of the tournament in Doha of "lying" after they denied that such rules for women competitors existed. "It's not true, it's in the tournament regulations of February 16," Constantin Adam told sporting news agency SID on Tuesday.

He referred to point 10 of 17, which states that women should wear longer sports clothing instead of the usual sports bikinis "out of respect for local culture and tradition", even during training and practice sessions. In the duo's interview with Der Spiegel, Sude said that while they would normally be prepared to "adapt to any country", local temperatures in Doha (which could top 30C) would make bikinis essential. Other German pairings are still travelling to Qatar for the competition.

"We're asking whether it’s necessary to hold a tournament there at all"

On Monday night, the Qatar Volleyball Association (QVA) refuted that version of events. "We would like to clarify that we are not making any demands on what athletes should wear at the event," QVA told French news agency AFP. "We fully respect the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) code of conduct and have shown in the past at numerous events in Qatar, including the ANOC World Beach Games, that athletes are free to compete in international uniforms as they would in other countries."

Borger and Sude have also called out the role of volleyball's world governing body and its decision to allow the tournament to be held in Qatar. "We are asking whether it's necessary to hold a tournament there at all," Borger told Deutschlandfunk radio: "It's definitely something that needs to be questioned."

She went on to say that the FIVB is "still very far behind in even listening to the athletes," adding that it was difficult for the organisation to "move forward if you don't develop pressure from the outside via the public."

Borger and Sude look to have qualification for the Tokyo Olympics almost in the bag, and have decided to head to Spain for a training camp instead of the tournament. That means they won't be able to participate in Doha even if the dress code is relaxed. "But they are happy that the pressure may have changed something," Adam said. The competition starts on 8 March - International Women's Day.

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