LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) – The IOC rejected women’s boxing Thursday but approved open-water swimming and women’s steeplechase for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee executive board ratified the recommendations of its program commission for events and disciplines within the 28 existing sports in the Summer Games.

Also approved were increases in women’s teams in soccer, field hockey and handball from 10 to 12, and the replacement of doubles with team events in table tennis.

The IOC, striving for gender equity in the Olympics, said the changes will result in 80 more female athletes at the games. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, 41 percent of the competitors were women.

Thursday’s decision means there will be 302 medal events in Beijing, one more than in Athens. The new events also are expected to remain on the program for the 2012 London Games.

Apart from baseball, boxing is the only existing summer Olympic sport without women’s events.

But boxing has run into problems with the IOC. The IOC froze more than $1 million in payments to the International Amateur Boxing Association after Athens because of concerns over judging in the sport.

Women’s boxing had its first world championships in 2001, with 27 countries participating.

IOC sports director Kelly Fairweather said the decision to reject women’s boxing was taken on a “purely technical basis.”

“The IOC did not feel it has reached the stage where it merits inclusion. We will watch the progress of women’s boxing in the next few years,” he said, adding it can reapply in 2009 for inclusion in London.

Also rejected were requests for an increase in men’s basketball teams from 12 to 16 and women’s softball from eight to 10; inclusion of mixed doubles in tennis; and introduction of six 50-meter swimming events for men and women. Various increases in rhythmic gymnastics, women’s wrestling, women’s weightlifting and taekwondo also were turned down.

The IOC board also denied a request from the international luge federation for the inclusion of natural track events at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Olympics already have artificial track luge events.

For Beijing, the IOC accepted the international swimming federation’s proposal for 10-kilometer open-water events for men and women. The races, already featured at swimming’s world championships, take place in rivers, lakes or oceans.

In track, steeplechase was the only event left in the Olympics without women. The grueling 3,000-meter race made its women’s world championships debut in Helsinki, Finland, in August. Women’s pole vault and hammer events were added at recent games.

The IOC said it was still considering increases in athletes’ numbers for triathlon, cycling, modern pentathlon and fencing.

The IOC, under president Jacques Rogge, has set a cap of 28 sports and 10,500 athletes for the Summer Olympics. Rogge has instituted a review of the program after each games.

In July, the IOC voted to drop baseball and softball after the Beijing Games, leaving 26 sports on the program for London. Baseball and softball are pushing for a new vote in a bid for reinstatement in February.

Also Thursday, the IOC amended its doping rules to secure ownership of all Olympic drug-testing samples for eight years in a bid to catch any drug cheats who escape detection during the games.

The move, starting with the Turin Winter Olympics in February, allows the IOC to store the samples and reanalyze them when new testing methods become available. The IOC will be free to strip any medalists retroactively.

After the eight-year period elapses, samples will be returned to the doping lab and all codes identifying the athletes destroyed.

On Friday, the IOC board will meet with Italian organizers to try to resolve the impasse over anti-doping rules for the Turin Games, which begin Feb. 10.

The Italian government has refused to ease or lift the law that classifies doping as a criminal offense, meaning athletes could be arrested and jailed for drug violations during the games. Olympic regulations treat doping as a sports infraction, with athletes subjected to disqualifications and suspensions but not criminal penalties.

AP-ES-10-27-05 1549EDT

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