BERLIN (AFP) - Germany's beach volleyball stars Karla Borger and Julia Sude have said they will boycott a tournament in Qatar next month because it was "the only country" where players were forbidden from wearing bikinis on court.
"We are there to do our job, but are being prevented from wearing our work clothes," Borger told radio station Deutschlandfunk on Sunday (Feb 21).
"This is really the only country and the only tournament where a government tells us how to do our job - we are criticising that."
The Qatar volleyball association reacted to the news by explaining it was "committed to ensuring that all athletes are made to feel welcome and comfortable at next month's event".
It said all athletes were free to compete in their international unifoms. "We would like to make clear that we are not making any demand on what athletes should wear at the event," a statement insisted.
Qatar is hosting the upcoming FIVB World Tour event but strict rules about on-court clothing have led to World Championships silver medallist Borger and her doubles partner Sude shunning the event.
The tournament in March is the first time that Doha has hosted a women's World Tour event, though the city has been a regular fixture on the men's tour for seven years.
Yet female players have been asked to wear shirts and long trousers rather than the usual bikinis, a rule which the world beach volleyball federation FIVB claims is "out of respect for the culture and traditions of the host country".
In a decision supported by the German volleyball federation DVV, Borger and Sude told Spiegel magazine during the weekend they "would not go along with" the rules imposed by the Qatari authorities.
Borger said that they would normally be happy to "adapt to any country", but that the extreme heat in Doha meant that bikinis were necessary.
Her team-mate Sude pointed out that Qatar had previously made exceptions for female track and field athletes competing at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.
The country also allowed female beach volleyball players to compete in bikinis at the ANOC World Beach Games in 2019.
Though not as hot as the scorching summer months, temperatures in the Gulf state can reach as high as 30 deg C in March.
Speaking to Deutschlandfunk on Sunday, Borger questioned whether Qatar was a suitable host nation.
"We are asking whether it's necessary to hold a tournament there at all," she said.
Qatar has hosted an increasing number of major sporting events in recent decades, though its human rights record, lack of sporting history and brutally hot weather make it a controversial venue.
Heat and humidity were major issues during the road races at last year's World Athletics Championships held in Doha.
Discriminatory labour practices and alleged human rights abuses in Qatar have been the subject of intense scrutiny ahead of next year's football World Cup.