The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee has denied paying for business class flights to Rio for politicians ©Getty Images

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) has denied that it has splashed out on an all expenses paid trip to the Rio 2016 Olympics for three politicians - which was said to include business class flights.

According to media reports in the country, the "oversight trip" to the Brazilian city would be for members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports and Recreation.

Fierce criticism was directed at SASCOC in the aftermath, with many pointing out that athletes often struggle to fund their own travel costs.

One of the politicians scheduled to attend - Solly Malatsi of the Democratic Alliance - has now withdrawn from the trip under guidance from his party.

Beauty Dlulane and Strike Ralegoma, both of the ruling African National Congress, are the other two politicians involved.

The Daily Maverick reported that the Rio trip covered "a business class flight that includes bed and breakfast stays for 10 days while the Olympics are on".

SASCOC, however, has claimed that the business class tickets have been provided as part of a sponsorship deal with national airline South African Airways.

As such they claim there has been no payment and the "question of funding does not arise".

The organisation also argues that the trip has always been planned as delegations from the country often observe overseas international events for their own research and planning.

South Africa is the host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which will take place in Durban.

"In previous Olympics, members of the Portfolio Committees, Members of Parliament and other dignitaries have been invited as guests of SASCOC to the Olympics," a statement said.

"These invitations have a long-standing tradition that has seen selected guests attend the Olympics and Paralympics, Commonwealth Games and Africa Games. 

South Africa has already faced criticism for not sending hockey teams to Rio, despite qualification
South Africa has already faced criticism for not sending hockey teams to Rio, despite qualification ©Getty Images

"In order to protect the integrity of the exercise in sending Team South Africa to any Olympic Games, SASCOC has always maintained that members of the Portfolio Committee on Sports and Recreation, irrespective of political affiliation, should be invited to the event to firstly, provide an oversight role and, secondly to experience a global event that could be potentially hosted in South Africa."

SASCOC has already faced criticism in the run-up to Rio 2016 by deciding not to send their men's and women's hockey teams and women's rugby sevens team to Brazil.

All three qualified through African continental competitions but SASCOC said that this was not good enough, ruling they could only qualify through the Hockey World League and World Rugby Sevens Series.

It was claimed this was in line with their "policy of producing world-class athletes who will compete at the highest level".

The governing body has defended the financial backing it gives to athletes, saying: "SASCOC wishes to reiterate that it directly funds athletes who are on its Operation Excellence Programme (OPEX).

"Currently SASCOC is funding 49 athletes to the tune of R17m (£800,000/$1.2 million/€1 million) from the period 1 April-September 2016.

"Athletes, who are not part of the OPEX Programme, are funded by their respective Federations or seek their own sponsorship.

"Sporting Federations have a responsibility to manage the sponsorship affairs of all athletes under their auspices.

"Contrary to media reports, no athlete on SASCOC’s OPEX programme has been denied funding, struggled to obtain funding or have experienced any difficulty in getting their requirements met.

"Athletes are included on SASCOC’s OPEX programme based on their world ranking and results at World Championships.

"It is therefore unfair to burden SASCOC with funding of all athletes outside of its OPEX programme."