Olympics Official Asks Russia Not to Persecute Gay Athletes During Games
International Olympic officials should use "all the avenues possible" with the Russian government to ensure that athletes competing at next year's Winter Games in Sochi aren't affected by a new anti-gay law, IOC presidential candidate Richard Carrion said Friday.
Russia's contentious law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, imposes fines on individuals accused of spreading "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors and proposes penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media. Gay pride rallies also are banned.
Russia's sports minister said Thursday that the law would be enforced during the Sochi Games, appearing to contract assurances to the contrary from the International Olympic Committee.
"We should use all the avenues possible for influence and diplomacy with Russian officials, so that this legislation will not create a problem for our athletes," Carrion, an IOC member from Puerto Rico, said in a statement Friday.
"I am confident that the discussions going on now with the Russian authorities will help clarify the extent of the law and will ensure that our athletes will be protected."
Carrion also said it should be a condition in the future that any city seeking to host the Olympics does not have laws that "discriminate against people in any way, consistent with the Olympic Charter."
"One of the deepest core values of the Olympic movement is 'sports as a human right.' Nothing should ever stand in the way of that," Carrion said.
Carrion is one of six candidates to succeed Jacques Rogge, who is stepping down as IOC president next month after 12 years in office. The election will be held Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Thursday the law wasn't designed to punish anyone for being gay or lesbian. He said athletes would be punished only for propaganda, a word that remains ambiguous under the new law.
"The corresponding law doesn't forbid non-traditional orientation, but other things: propaganda, involvement of minors and young people," he said.
Under the law, punishment for foreign citizens includes fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,000), time in prison for up to 15 days, deportation and denial of reentry into Russia.
The IOC said last week that it had received assurances "from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games."
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Thursday the committee continues to accept those assurances.
Senior Canadian IOC member Dick Pound criticized the law Friday but said calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games were misplaced.
"I think it's a shame that in this day and age such a law has been adopted," he told The Associated Press in telephone interview. "But I do not think that is a reason for the entire world to refrain from going to the Olympics, and those who urge that are being very free with the sacrifice of other people in their own interest."
The other candidates for the IOC presidency are Thomas Bach of Germany, Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, Denis Oswald of Switzerland, Ng Ser Miang of Singapore and C.K. Wu of Taiwan.