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The Women Of Norway's Beach Handball Team Got In Trouble For Refusing To Wear Bikini Bottoms

The International Handball Federation requires women to wear bikini bottoms, even though men wear shorts.

Posted on July 20, 2021, at 7:18 p.m. ET

Ilnar Tukhbatov / Epsilon / Getty Images

Norway's Marielle Elisabeth Mathisen Martinsen plays a shot during the 2018 Women's Beach Handball World Cup final in Kazan, Russia.

The Norwegian women's beach handball team was fined on Monday after wearing shorts at the European championships in protest of rules requiring women players to wear bikini bottoms.

The European Handball Federation issued fines of 150 euros per player, for a total of 1,500 euros, saying that their shorts were "improper clothing," according to the regulations set by the International Handball Federation.

The federation's rules state that while men are required to wear shorts, women can only wear bikini bottoms "with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg." The bottoms must have a side width of no more than 10 centimeters, or about 3.9 inches, according to the regulations.

Before the team's first game in the championship, Norway asked the EHF for permission to play in shorts but was told the team could be punished with fines or disqualified if they did, Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir Lio told NBC News. Then, on Sunday, in the bronze medal match against Spain, the players decided to go ahead anyway as a team.

A screenshot of the Norwegian players in blue shorts during Sunday's game.

"We thought, 'Now we’ll just do it, then we will see what happens,'" player Katinka Haltvik told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Lio told the New York Times that the national organization would pay the fines imposed by European regulators as he voiced support for the players.

“Women should have the right to have a uniform they think is suitable for performing in their sport,” Lio said. He also told the Times that Norway had complained about the bikini bottom requirement since 2006 and "nothing has happened."

In a statement on Twitter and Instagram, the Norwegian federation said it was "very proud" of the women for raising their voices and saying that "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH."

"We ... stand behind you and support you," the post said. "Together we will continue to fight to change the international regulations for clothing, so that players can play in the clothes they are comfortable with!"

The International Handball Federation did not immediately respond to questions from BuzzFeed News, but Jessica Rockstroh, a spokesperson for the organization, told the Times that she didn't know the reason for the rules requiring women to wear bikini bottoms.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the European Handball Federation said it was in the process of addressing the issue, adding that "the reaction is based on disinformation on the procedure."

"The position of the players involved is acknowledged and further steps, in close coordination with the IHF, are in motion," the statement said.

The fines over the women handball players' clothing are the latest example of sexist double standards in sports and regulation over what female athletes, in particular, can wear when competing. Earlier this week, Olivia Breen, a Paralympic sprinter and long jumper for the United Kingdom, said an official at the English championships told her that her briefs were "too short and inappropriate."

"I was left speechless," Breen wrote in a Twitter post. "It made me question whether a male competitor would be similarly criticised."

Shireen Ahmed, a writer focused on Muslim women in sports, likened the beach handball clothing regulations to hijab bans; FIFA, in particular, for years banned women soccer players from wearing hijabs.

"It is about controlling women's bodies and not about advantage, danger or anything else," Ahmed tweeted.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.