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IOC asks Chinese team for report on cyclists' Mao Zedong badges

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Cycling - Track - Women's Team Sprint - Medal Ceremony - Izu Velodrome, Shizuoka, Japan - August 2, 2021. A badge of the late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong is seen pinned to the tracksuit of a China Women's Team Sprint athlete REUTERS/Matthew Childs

TOKYO, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday asked the Chinese team for a report on why two of its medallists appeared on the podium wearing badges featuring the head of the country's former leader Mao Zedong.

Gold medal cyclists Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi wore the badges during a medal ceremony on Monday, in a potential breach of Olympic rules on the display of political paraphernalia.

"We contacted the Chinese Olympic Committee and asked them for a report on the situation," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said. "We are looking into the matter."

The duo wore the badges, commonplace in China for half a century but a potential breach of Rule 50 of the Olympic charter, after retaining the women's cycling team sprint title at the Izu Velodrome.

While the IOC last month relaxed Rule 50 to allow gestures, such as taking the knee on the field of play provided athletes do so without disruption and with respect for fellow competitors, it has banned any such gestures on the podium.

The IOC is also investigating a gesture made on the podium by American shotput silver medallist Raven Saunders which the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee ruled was not disrespectful of any other competitors.

Saunders raised her arms in an X above her head, which she later indicated was an expression of support for the oppressed.

The USOPC said the gesture did not breach its rules as it was a "peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice (that) was respectful of her competitors".

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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