Beach volleyball officials in Qatar have been forced into a stunning backflip over a controversial bikini ban for female athletes.
The conservative Gulf state is hosting the upcoming FIVB World Tour event but strict rules about on-court clothing have led to fierce backlash.
German world championship silver medal-winning teammates Karla Borger and Julia Sude indicated they would boycott the event because it was "the only country" where players were forbidden from wearing bikinis on court.
'CRUSHING NEWS': Fears for Tiger Woods after latest update
The tournament in March is the first time that Doha has hosted a women's World Tour event, though the city has been a regular fixture on the men's tour for seven years.
Yet female players have been asked to wear shirts and long trousers rather than the usual bikinis, a rule which the world beach volleyball federation FIVB claims is "out of respect for the culture and traditions of the host country".
With temperatures expected to be around 30 degrees at that time of year in Qatar, players were understandably uncomfortable with having to wear uniforms better suited for colder climates.
Qatari officials initially said they were "not making any demand on what athletes should wear at the event," despite regulations to the contrary posted on the World Tour website.
The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) was forced to clarify the situation after the regulations in Qatar were later updated.
Volleyball's world governing body told AFP the Qatari association assured them there would be “no restrictions on female players wearing standard uniforms”.
“The FIVB believes strongly that women’s beach volleyball, as all sport, should be judged on performance and effort, and not on uniform,” it added.
“Therefore, during the competition in Doha, should players request to wear the standard uniform, they will be free to do so.”
The embarrassing bikini backflip came after German teammates Borger and Sude led the uproar over the ban.
"We are there to do our job, but are being prevented from wearing our work clothes," Borger told German radio.
"This is really the only country and the only tournament where a government tells us how to do our job - we are criticising that."
Borger said that they would normally be happy to "adapt to any country", but that the extreme heat in Doha meant that bikinis were necessary.
Her teammate Sude pointed out that Qatar had previously made exceptions for female track and field athletes competing at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.
The country also allowed female beach volleyball players to compete in bikinis at the ANOC World Beach Games in 2019.
Qatar has hosted an increasing number of major sporting events in recent decades, though its human rights record, lack of sporting history and brutally hot weather make it a controversial venue.
Heat and humidity were major issues during the road races at last year's World Athletics Championships held in Doha.
Discriminatory labour practices and alleged human rights abuses in Qatar have been the subject of intense scrutiny ahead of next year's football World Cup.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.