August 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
IOC prohibits athletes from challenging anti-gay Russian law at Olympics

Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters gathered outside of the Russian Embassy on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday reaffirmed to the Washington Blade it will not allow athletes who compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics to publicly challenge Russia’s gay propaganda to minors ban during the games.

The IOC referred the Blade to a portion of the Olympic Charter adopted in 2001 that states “no form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic Games” outside of a manufacturer’s logo.

“This rule has been in place for many years and aims to separate sport from politics, honor the context of the Olympic games and ensure the peaceful gathering of athletes from over 200 nations, officials and spectators from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds,” the IOC told the Blade in a statement. “By its nature, the Olympic games cannot become a platform for any kind of demonstration and the IOC will not accept any proactive gesture that could harm their spirit and jeopardize their future.”

The Olympic Charter further states any athlete who violates the aforementioned rule could face disqualification or loss of their accreditation at the Sochi games.

The IOC Executive Board’s decisions “shall be final,” but the Olympic body told the Blade it would “always treat case individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done.” The IOC did not respond to a follow-up question about what other potential sanctions an athlete who publicly criticizes the law while competing in Sochi could face.

The IOC’s comments come amid widespread outrage over Russia’s ban on gay propaganda that President Vladimir Putin signed into law in June.

Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein last month called for a boycott of the Sochi games. Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones are among those who have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

Andy Cohen on Wednesday told E! News he turned down a request to co-host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that will take place in Moscow in November, in part, because “he didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”

Gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who was unable to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics in the Russian capital because then-President Jimmy Carter boycotted them over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year, is among those who feel the U.S. should compete in the Sochi games. President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include also oppose an Olympic boycott.

Gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup last month announced he will wear a Pride pin while in Sochi.

American runner Nick Symmonds on August 13 criticized the gay propaganda ban during an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti after he completed the men’s 800 meter final at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championship in Moscow. Figure skater Johnny Weir, whose husband is of Russian descent, told CBS News earlier this month he is “not afraid of being arrested” while at the Sochi games.

IOC has ‘received assurances’ from Russian government over law

The IOC reiterated to the Blade its previous statements that said it has “received assurances” from the highest level of the Russian government that the gay propaganda ban will “not affect those attending or taking part” in the Sochi games.

The Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement it released on August 12 that it would enforce the law during the Olympics. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told reporters during a Moscow press conference last week that those who continue to criticize the statute need to “calm down.”

The IOC did not return the Blade’s follow-up request for comment on Mutko’s statements. It also did not respond to an additional question about Navratilova and others who maintain the IOC should have never awarded Russia the 2014 Winter Olympics because of concerns over its human rights record.

“The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,” the IOC told the Blade. “The games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

  • Skeeter Sanders

    In the face of the International Olympic Committee’s decision that it will not allow athletes who compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia to publicly challenge Russia’s “gay- propaganda-to-minors” ban during the games, openly LGBT athletes now have a decision to make: Whether to participate in the games or to boycott them.

    As a bisexual man who is not an athlete, it is not up to me to say one way or the other whether LGBT athletes should or should not compete in the Sochi Games. I can speak only for myself, and if I were an athlete, I would decide not to participate in the games, on the grounds that the Russian government runs a serious risk of repeating the precedent set by the Nazis in Germany soon after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.

    Within two years, the Nazis passed law after law after law imposing discrimination against Jews — actions that ultimately led to the Holocaust (See the Wikipedia page on the Nuremberg Laws —

    What is to prevent the Russian government from falling into the same pattern toward gay people?

  • LOrion

    SEE this post on ARMENIA…deciding not to follow the American Scott Lively’s advice to write AntiGay Laws.. ALSO see piece on Advocate about his coming up for trial for breaking International Law with his decade of Gay Hate promotion in Uganda. … He could also be sued for his Russian involvement too. GET A REPORTER ON THIS.
    HERE is comment I left under Article on Armenia see link.
    ‘So that’s how he did it, Scott Lively promoted letter writing campaigns by ‘concerned citizens’ to get laws passed.
    Well get on it you folks with AVAAZ, CHANGE, CARE2, CAUSE time for ALL LGBT human right supporters to write THANK YOU letters to Armenia and all other countries, especially in Europe and Eastern Europe who support Gay Rights. Let them know you care!
    Send me links, I will sign and forward around.’

  • LOrion

    Scott Lively Will Be Tried under Ia US Law that prohibits Prosetylzing HumanRights Violations. for his DECADE of Fueling Antigay Persecution In #Uganda #Africa #Nigeria #Kenya #SouthAfrica

    NOTE: He also did same in #Russia from 2007 on, till Putin signed national Antigay law. HERE IS YOUR RUSSIAN CRIMINAL!

  • cinematt

    Since the IOC has whored itself out (again) to its corporate sponsors, maybe the correct approach here is to boycott the products of any company that sponsors the Olympics or Olympic telecasts. If you want to sponsor bigotry, you should pay the price.

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