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German Rower Ousted from Olympics Over Neo-Nazi Ties

German rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympic Village on Friday following reports that her boyfriend was a far-right extremist.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 8/5/2012, 8:46 AM

 Nadja Drygalla
Nadja Drygalla
Reuters

German rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympic village on Friday following reports that her boyfriend was a far-right extremist.

The German Olympic Committee said Drygalla, who had already finished competing at the Games as part of the women's rowing eight team, left of her own volition after a 90-minute conversation German officials, Reuters reported.

"Miss Drygalla confirmed credibly her commitment to the Olympic Charter," the head of Germany's committee Michael Vesper said. "She is leaving the Olympic Village so as not to be a burden for the team."

While German officials did not elaborate on the reason for her departure, attributing it only to the athlete’s “private environment,” German public broadcaster ARD reported the 23-year-old former police officer was suspected of sympathizing with right-wing extremist ideology.

Media reports said her boyfriend was a leading member of the "Rostock National Socialists" and had fought a state election for the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).

Germany's intelligence agency describes the party as racist, anti-Semitic and inspired by the Nazis. Its local election campaigns blame immigrants for crime and unemployment and its supporters are mostly unemployed young men with little education in depressed areas of the east, according to Reuters.

According to reports, the rumors have already cost Drygalla a place at a police-training academy, and pictures of her with members of the far right have circulated online.

The party is represented in two state assemblies, but not in the federal parliament.

An attempt to ban the NPD failed in 2003 after witnesses were exposed as intelligence agency informants. Authorities only discovered the cell by chance late last year.

The German rowing federation issued a statement saying it welcomed Drygalla's decision.

"We will have another conversation with Nadja Drygalla in August after the Olympic Games. After that we will decide together with her how to proceed," said Siegfried Kaidel, the head of the federation.

Mark Adams, spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, said Drygalla had done nothing wrong at the Games. "There is no issue for us regarding the rower. I have seen the report. But as far as the Games are concerned, she has not done anything wrong," he said.  

A Greek athlete and a Swiss soccer player had been barred from participating in the Olympic Games under somewhat similar circumstances.