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Norway's beach handball team fined for refusing to wear bikini bottoms: "Embarrassing, disgraceful and sexist"

Norwegian officials reacted sharply on Tuesday after the country's women's beach handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms in competition.

The Disciplinary Committee of the European Handball Federation (EHF) on Monday fined the Norway team 1,500 euros ($1,768), or 150 euros per player, for "improper clothing" after they wore shorts in their bronze-medal match loss to Spain at the European Beach Handball Championship in Varna, Bulgaria, on Sunday.  

"In 2021, it shouldn't even be an issue," the president of the Norwegian Volleyball Federation, Eirik Sordahl, told national news agency NTB.

Clothing has long been an issue in beach sports, with some women players finding bikinis degrading or impractical.

While bikinis have not been compulsory for beach volleyball players since 2012, International Handball Federation (IHF) rules state "female athletes must wear bikini bottoms" and that these must have "a close fit," be "cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg" and a side depth of no more than 10 centimeters.

Male players wear shorts.

"It's completely ridiculous," Norway's Minister for Culture and Sports Abid Raja tweeted after Monday's ruling. "What a change of attitude is needed in the macho and conservative international world of sport."

Norwegian politician Lene Westgaard-Halle chided the IHF for the forced bikini rule, calling it "embarrassing, disgraceful and sexist."

Ahead of the tournament, Norway asked the EHF for permission to play in shorts, but were told that breaches of the rules were punishable by fines.

They complied, until their last match.

"The EHF is committed to bring this topic forward in the interest of its member federations, however it must also be said that a change of the rules can only happen at IHF level," EHF spokesman Andrew Barringer said in an email.

The incident is not the only clothing controversy in sports this week. Olivia Breen, a two-time Paralympic track and field world champion, said a volunteer official called her sprinting shorts "too short and inappropriate" at the English Championships. An England Athletics spokesperson said they have launched an investigation into the incident.

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