For Immediate Release: August 13, 2013
New York City – Human Rights First urges the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to clarify recent statements made suggesting that it will punish athletes who stand up for gay rights in Russia. According to Gay Star News, an IOC spokesperson, when asked about athletes who may speak out against Russia’s infamous antigay legislation, cited Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, warning against “proactive political or religious demonstrations.”
“Today’s alleged comments can seriously undermine the positive steps taken by the IOC to get clarification from the Russian government on how the antigay law will be applied during the 2014 Sochi Games,” said Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov. “If today’s statement is true, athletes may not only have to worry about the Russian government, but about reprisal from the IOC as well.”
Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that “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.” The rule was adopted to regulate advertising and to prevent the advocacy of racial supremacy and religious fundamentalism at the Games. The IOC should also clarify how Rule 50 has been used during past Olympic Games.
“The Olympic Charter should not be used against those who advocate equality and nondiscrimination,” said Grekov. “The IOC should publicly clarify whether or not athletes showing solidarity with LGBT Russians will be reprimanded.”
A federal bill banning the non-defined “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” received near-unanimous support in the Russian State Duma and was signed into law by President Putin in June. Prior to the federal legislation, multiple regions of the Russian Federation had passed local laws prohibiting so-called “propaganda of homosexuality to minors” and instituted discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI individuals and organizations. In addition to the discriminatory laws, the Russian government has continued to deny freedom of assembly and association to gay rights activists, banning gay pride parades and events in multiple cities and denying registration to groups seeking to confront homophobia and promote tolerance and nondiscrimination.
“The IOC should be spending its energy protecting athletes during the games, not punishing them,” concluded Grekov. “IOC officials need to distance themselves from today’s comments and continue to lead the charge in pushing for an inclusive Olympic Games.”