Colombian Olympic Committee: At risk of suspension and expulsion. GETTY IMAGES

The actions of the Colombian government, led by President Gustavo Petro, in its attempt to regain the organisation of the Pan American Games, are incompatible with IOC rules and put the Colombian Olympic Committee on the brink of severe punishment: suspension and even expulsion.

A few days ago, Colombia lost out on the chance to host the next Pan American and Parapan American Games in 2027. The games were originally scheduled to be held in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla. 

But constant violations and a lack of interest on the part of the national government, led by the left-wing President Gustavo Petro, have tested the patience of Panam Sports. As a result, they withdrew their hosting rights, citing breaches of contract, including the failure to pay $8 million despite promises and deadlines. 

Within days, criticism from opposition politicians and, more importantly, the Colombian public had shaken Petro's government, which was already facing several internal political and legal challenges. 

In response, a desperate Gustavo Petro, along with other Colombian officials and sports authorities, held a press conference on 9 January in which he pledged to do everything in his power to win back the Games and the city of Barranquilla. He instructed ministers and officials to use traditional diplomatic channels to persuade their Latin American counterparts to support Colombia before turning to Panam Sports.

During the press conference, the president stated that he would travel to Chile to speak with Neven Ilic, the president of the entity, and authorised the foreign ministry, headed by Álvaro Leyva, to persuade the 41 members to support the country's bid to host the games. 

These actions may have further irritated Panam Sports and, above all, the IOC, which disapproves of state interference in the decisions of Olympic committees or federations. In this case, the IOC considers the intervention of the Colombian government in the decision of Panam Sports to be totally inappropriate. 

The IOC rules are clear: no government should interfere in the decisions of its members. In Chapter 2 of the document, concerning the IOC and its members, point 1.5 refers to the prohibition of interference by states or other entities: "The members of the IOC will not accept any orders or instructions from any government, organisation or third party that could compromise their freedom of action and vote."

Relevant extract from the Olympic Charter. OLYMPIC.ORG
Relevant extract from the Olympic Charter. OLYMPIC.ORG

Colombia, as one of the 204 member countries of the IOC, has signed and agreed to abide by the rules set out in the Olympic Charter. In other words, neither Colombia nor any other government can interfere in decisions, which is completely incompatible with the actions advocated and ordered by President Petro. 

President Petro, to publicly address the turbulence of his government and to show firmness and protect his reputation, instructed his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alvaro Leyva, to take actions to recover the Games - actions that violate the Charter. 

"The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia, Álvaro Leyva, has the express authority to communicate with the Presidents of the Republic, with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and, if necessary, with the Presidents of the Olympic Committees of each country in the Americas. This is in order to obtain a majority both in the Panam Sports Executive Committee and in the possible holding of an Extraordinary Assembly," he stressed. 

As with any rule, there is a penalty for breaking it. In this case, one of them could be the expulsion of the member (Colombia), as established in Chapter 2. Article 3.8. In this case, the session will have to prove that the South American country has betrayed the oath of the Olympic Charter or has knowingly neglected, compromised, or in any way dishonoured the interests of the IOC.

Another important extract from the Olympic Charter. OLYMPIC.ORG
Another important extract from the Olympic Charter. OLYMPIC.ORG

The IOC Executive Board may also suspend the member in question and deprive it of all or part of the rights, privileges and functions attaching to its status as a member.

Therefore, if Colombia does not comply with the rules of the Olympic Charter and follows the orders issued of its national government, led by President Petro, undue political interference by its government could lead to its expulsion from the International Olympic Committee.

As a second-class association, Panam Sports follows and relies on the rules of the International Olympic Committee. Therefore, Gustavo Petro must be careful with his strategy of trying to regain what he lost due to his negligence (or, as he admitted, due to the inexperience and malpractice of his officials).

What would happen if Colombia, or more precisely its Olympic Committee, were to be sanctioned? It could be banned from taking part in Olympic events, as happened to Guatemala (currently suspended for other violations of the Olympic Charter), and its athletes would not be able to compete under their country's flag.