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'Australian cheerleaders: Cover up'

Officials fear bare midriffs send wrong message to young girls

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australian cheerleaders have been banned from baring midriffs by officials of the sport who fear displays of skin may encourage eating disorders.

Gymnastics Australia has ordered cheerleading troupes to find new uniforms by the end of the year.

Nerine Cooper, national cheerleading manager for Gymnastics Australia, said the decision, which followed similar moves in the United States and elsewhere, was needed because cheerleaders often performed in front of family groups.

"We don't want girls to feel under pressure to lose weight because of uniforms," she told Sydney's Sunday Telegraph.

But Lisa Ince, head of Sydney Promotional Dancers, said the order was unfair.

"It's ridiculous really, if the thinking is that a midriff is offensive, then every dance school and athletics club would face the same restrictions," Ince said.

The ban will affect about 105 teams registered with Gymnastics Australia.

In the United States, the National Federation of State High School Associations issued a new rule for the 2006-07 school year requiring that cheerleading uniforms cover the midriff.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/04/16/australia.cheerleaders.ap/

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