Olympic Committee threatens to punish athletes who fight for gay Russians

Forget the Russian police, athletes who back gay rights during Sochi’s Winter Games may be punished by the Olympic Committee

Olympic Committee threatens to punish athletes who fight for gay Russians
12 August 2013

The International Olympic Committee will likely stop any athlete who shows solidarity for LGBT Russians at the Sochi Games, GSN can reveal.

Gay Star News asked the global Olympic bosses what they were planning to do to ‘make sure the LGBT community in Russia can have a visible, proud, safe presence at the games’.

But the IOC replied the games were not the place for ‘political’ statements. Any participant who steps out of line may be punished, not by the Russians but by Olympic chiefs themselves.

LGBT rights campaigners have called on athletes to wear ‘rainbow pins’ to show their support for LGBT people in the opening and closing ceremonies.

New Zealand gay speed skater Blake Skjellerup, 28, was one athlete who pledged to do so.

But the IOC pointed GSN to rules banning that.

The Olympics own charter describes such things as ‘propaganda’ – the same word used by the Russians in their new anti-gay law which stops homosexuality being ‘promoted’ to minors.

Under rule 50 of the IOC’s charter: ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’

GSN had asked what the global Olympic chiefs thought about plans for athletes to wear rainbow pins or hold hands during the opening and closing ceremonies.

We also asked if the IOC would provide a safe space – or Pride House – for LGBT athletes, spectators, dignitaries and others during the games to celebrate gay sport and community.

But their spokeswoman told us: ‘Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.

‘This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.

‘In any case, the IOC would treat each case individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done.’

The message is clear, athletes, coaches and others who step out of line – for example by wearing rainbow pins – would not just risk arrest from Russians, but also punishment from the IOC.

Clause 50 states the penalty for violation can be ‘disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned’ without appeal.

The IOC still supports gays and lesbians being allowed to compete, but won’t let them use the Olympics as a platform to highlight Russia’s anti-LGBT human rights abuses.

It will be a blow for people who argued against a boycott of the games, saying Sochi could be used to champion LGBT issues in Russia.

Olympics President Jacques Rogge last week said the games ‘should be open to all, free of discrimination’ sparking hopes the IOC may review its charter so LGBT people were specifically protected from exclusion.

Currently, only race, religion, politics and gender are included under the charter’s criteria for which discrimination is prohibited.

GSN asked about this too but we were told their position remains unchanged.

IOC officials now seem to be less certain LGBT athletes will be shielded from Russia’s anti-gay ‘propaganda’ laws too.

Previously they stated: ‘The IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games.’

But that appears to be in tatters after a series of high-level government officials, including Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, said the law would apply during the games.

Now the IOC spokeswoman has admitted to us: ‘We have received assurances from the Russian government but simply asked for some clarifications.’

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