Jonathan Higbee's picture

Olympic Committee Confirms It Will Punish Athletes Who Support LGBT Rights In Russia

The International Olympic Committee has confirmed a fear that has overcome the LGBT and sports communities this month: a provision in the IOC charter that calls for the punishment of athletes who make political or religious displays will be enforced during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

When asked if the IOC planned to create a "safe space" of sorts for LGBT and allied athletes, journalists, contractors and other foreigners visiting Russia for the Olympics, officials told Gay Star News, "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."

While we're on the subject of rule 50 in the Olympic Charter (which states "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas"), the IOC has confirmed that it will indeed enforce it against displays of support for the LGBT community at the games in Sochi.

"This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary," the IOC told GSN. "In any case, the IOC would treat each case individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done."

Gay Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup has already pledged, along with other athletes, to show Pride during the Opening Ceremonies by wearing a rainbow pin, a display that now may have him in trouble with Russian authorities and the Olympic Committee. 


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Don't throw the Olympic flag in my face and expect us to forget our principles. The Olympic Games continue to mutate into such an overblown hypocritical INDUSTRY year after year. It may have been a venue where all the nations' best AMATEUR athletes competed under an umbrella of peace and good will. Today the sponsoring nations, media, and the athletes themselves gleefully sell out to any corporate/commercial interest. How many corporate logos and commercials are we bombarded with during the Games? Yet an athlete who wants to speak freely is not welcome or threatened with Draconian prosecution?

Our LGBT athletes and other oppressed athletes are supposed to go mute and go back into the closet just so Putin's Russia can self promote themselves (and don't think they won't)? What if those athletes are already widely known to be out or hold a particular undesirable opinion, will that be enough to have them suffer Putin's barbarism? We have to remain silent so the IOC can rake in millions (or billions)?

You might argue that it is the athletes that only get punished in the end. They train non stop and compete in events all the around the world every year in order to gain the chance to attend the Olympics once every four years. Those events, most of which are held in friendly countries, get next to no coverage or support and are where the true amateur athletes get a chance. Its time we focus attention to those events, which are very often local and affordable. Boycott Putin's Russia, the bloated IOC, and the immoral corporations that fund them.

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This is almost as fun to watch as the comments on a Yahoo! article.

Love is not a political statement.  The IOC needs to evolve.

Praise this person!! 

Love is not a political statement.  The IOC needs to evolve.

"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of

practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which

requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."  PAGE 10.

Apparently this only applies when the IOC feels like enforcing it.


The Winter Olympics is my fave sporting event followed a close second by the summer Olympics but I doubt I will bother with the 2014 games! The IOC want to punish people for standing up to Russia yet reward Russia with the benefits of extra income generated by tourism ect! I understand it can't be simple for them! I'm sure it's too late in the day to change to another venue but the news report I want to read is of the IOC pledging to support the athletes and not condemn them! What kind of message does it send to Russia! It tells them they are right with their twisted viewpoints on homosexuality! 

The IOC is also extremely anti-Semitic, and they tried to cover up the Munich massacre committed by the Arab terrorists.

Sorry Pierce.  I cannot imagine enjoying an event knowing that people's human rights are being violated by being told to be quiet. A number of the IOC reps come from nations where being queer will land a person in prison is it any wonder they will stand against this ?!  Please do not hide your head in the sand if Russia is not challenged on this it will continue.  There are enough places in the world that being LBGTI will land a person in prison or worse we do not need another.

Non political, non religious, what about human rights?The exchange of culture and the  love of sport and health?

yes you´re right. how can we enjoy such big intercultural sport events and how can we look in the mirror if we just say nothing?

Oh so they will enforce THAT part of the IOC charter, but the rule that a city hosting the Olympics must maintain positive media representation, no that they can just ignore.

Wow!!!  I just look at the Charter and under the Fundamental Principles of Olympism page 11,  There is this:

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race,
religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic

Tim, you were reading the wrong version. The latest version reads this way...

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race,
religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic
Movement, but, of course, we will pretend not to notice such discrimination if it occurs against any group we don't feel comfortable allowing in the Olympics in the first place. 

Thanks for nothing, IOC.  This IS Nazi Germany for our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in Russia.  They ARE being beaten and possibly killed because of their sexual orientation.  This is how it all started in Nazi Germany in the 1930's.  To say otherwise is at best disingenuous to our Russian brothers and sisters.  Boycott!

Then it's isn't figurative Nazi Germany, it could potentially turn into Nazi Germany.

I'm not surprised about this - Russia has gone back to its old ways when Stalin ruled and bullied people into submission - he was Hitler's friend before 'the war' without their friendship agreement in 1939 Hitler would never had dared to attack Belgium, Norway, Holland, France and the British army in France - when the American army handed over the Buchenwahlt concentration camp in 1945 to Russia they reopened it and 'locked away all those who opposed the Communist state and Stalin - many of who had barely survived the Nazi rule where once again in the same camp often guarded by the same 'guards' as they had been during the Nazi regime! Because  the Communists were seen as the true victors of the Second World War 'our' press left this out of their newspapers and headlines - for this Russia got the idea it can't do no wrong and get away with anything!!! And this is the result - they don't give a **** about what others think as they believe if we don't agree with them we are fascist and Nazis! And our dear press just tries to ignore it again - I bet many so called liberal journalists have a horrible time trying to admit that this is going on in Russia! If they would be happening like for example in the US they would be all over it!!!! We should wake our press and confront them with this 'low key' reaction on those crimes against humanity --- by the way I'm not gay I'm just a fellow human being totally upset and horrified by this outrage and I do support all those who want to 'do something' to stop this! We should also focus on other former Communist East European countries where that kind of bigot madness is also going on --- make no mistake this is not new for the former Communist states it is just a return to the old ways! Only then there was a high wall that kept it hidden from us!!!

Where was your outrage when the same Neo-Nazis that are driving this anti-gay sentiment (and pushing the anti-gay laws in the Duma) have been murdering people for the colour of their skin on a daily basis for years now? That's been going on since the early to mid 2000's. Where were the Nazi Germany comparisons then? And why only mention the LGBT people being hurt?

It'd be nice if people weren't only indignant about things that affect their own particular group.

Equality for all, not just those who look like me!

It's not the barring of GLBT insignia or icons that is bothering to me (so long as this is applied equally across all groups), its the punishment of people for simply being gay or lesbian or bisexual that is troublesome. For this reason the US Olympic Committee and the IOC should stand up to Russia on this issue!

I have been on the post about boycotting. But I am mow for boycott. It scares me that you can be punished for being suspected of being gay, for show any sort of support for the LGBT Community. Those those athletes who say we should go and stand up.... They will be punished by Russia and the IOC..... It is despicable that one of the G20 countries, a country of Europe and apart of the UN Can act this way, how in modern society is this tolerated! This is why we must stand united. When other issues arise we must also come together, we must show are support to the gay communities everyone.

Ok, I'm going to play devil's advocate here. I support the cause with every fiber of my being, and I think Russia's new laws are beyond revolting, but I have to point out a couple of things. 1) The IOC has always taken a hard line on political or religious protest of ANY kind, no matter how quiet or non-aggressive. Remember that the Olympics have taken place in many, many countries where there are serious, insane human rights issues (hello China??? Did anyone boycott the Olympics two years ago?) and the IOC didn't allow any protests in any of those places, either. The idea is to put everything - and I mean everything, all cultural and religious and political differences - aside for a couple of weeks so that the world can come together, in peace, for an athletic event that showcases the best of human athletic achievement. Given the vast potential areas of protest and fighting and the potential for rapidly escalating violence, not to mention the huge worldwide platform and massive media attention, I can understand why the IOC takes a hard line on this. This is NOT LGBT discrimination. If you want to call it discrimination, then call it human rights/LGBT/Jewish/Shiite/Sunni/Chechnyan/every single minority group discrimination you can think of. 2) This is supposed to be about the athletes. Athletes who, in many cases, have sacrificed everything you can think of to be at the Games. This isn't a guilt-trip, it's just reality. This is another reason why the IOC doesn't allow any political expression - to keep the focus on the athletes. Disagree with that if you like, but it's a valid priority. I may hate Russian politics, but I'll watch the Olympics, and cheer my heart out, and live inside the hope for two short weeks that someday the world will always be this peaceful.

Well done for putting this into perspective! While I respect the rights of all people of all and every race, religion or gender, sport should not be hijacked and used for making political statements or furthering a cause no matter how valid but should be used for bringing people together. 

"Sport should not be hijacked and used for making political statments or furthering a cause"  HUH?  Why not?  Since when have sports been off the table?  I don't think they are off the table.  The Olympics is a PERFECT opportunity for the world to speak out on a human rights issue. 

Okay I see your point, but what you have to realize is that we cannot simply put away the rights of LGBT people at the Olympics. While the Olympic Committee has banned protests of human rights violations in countries such as China, those were always protests for things happening in separate countries (not every country has the same problems as China). The issue of LGBT people and their rights is an international issue, is present in every country, island, and territory, and affects the whole human race, not just a single country. And during the African-American civil rights movement, black athletes made political statements at the games (raising a fist for Black Power). The LGBT civil rights movement is the civil rights movement of our generation. If people allowed such demonstrations then, they must surely allow demonstrations of signs and symbols of protest from the athletes. We cannot throw away a chance to tell more of the world of what is happening is Russia and the opposition to it from many countries and athletes. An if the Olympic committee really wants to show itself and the games as a symbol of peace in the world, then it should allow protests from the athletes towards what is happening in Russia, especially since most of the countries in the Olympic Games oppose what Russia is doing.

In one paragraph, you state, The idea is to put everything - and I mean everything, all cultural and religious and political differences - aside for a couple of weeks so that the world can come together, in peace

Treating humans beings with dignity and respect should take a back seat to you being entertained?

The whole point of the Olympics is to bring people together to celebrate the spirit of friendly competition. I don't see how that can happen by threatening the freedom and safety of another human being.

My guess is that you are White and heterosexual, and people speaking out gets in the way of your privilege. You couldn't care less about their human rights, so long as you get your fix of living vicariously through others in your imagined utopia.

Hoping accomplishes nothing. Speaking out and acting against injustice insures a better world.

"Treating humans beings with dignity and respect should take a back seat to you being entertained?"
Woah, I think you completely missed the point there.  The Olympics is a place to set aside our differences, and our bigotries, and celebrate the endeavors of the atheletes competing.  That's what he was saying.  The Olympics is not, and should never be, a place to push a political agenda, because then the nature of the entire event becomes changed.  Yes, Russia's laws are horrible and inhuman, and yes they should be fought, but the Olympics is not the place to do it. 

"I don't see how that can happen by threatening the freedom and safety of another human being."

The law in Russia is against promoting a gay lifestyle in the media, so long as the IOC enforces rule 50, then no one is in danger.

"My guess is that you are White and heterosexual, and people speaking out gets in the way of your privilege. You couldn't care less about their human rights, so long as you get your fix of living vicariously through others in your imagined utopia."
Let's refrain from ad hominem attacks shall we?  Especially when they are so wildly speculative.

"Hoping accomplishes nothing. Speaking out and acting against injustice insures a better world."
Again, there is a time and a place.  Choose your battles and you come off as a person with a strong idea, not a psycho.

"Yes, Russia's laws are horrible and inhuman, and yes they should be fought, but the Olympics is not the place to do it."
I disagree.  A lot.  The Olympics is the biggest chance we have to make a statement that will be seen the world over.  Nobody needs to pretend that these things aren't happening. Nobody needs to pretend that Syria is not a mess.  Or that Egypt is not a mess.  Or that the United States isn't an imperialist bully.  Or that Russia is not a xenophobic state regressing back toward totalitarianism.  Nobody has to pretend these things aren't happening during the Olympic games simply because the games lovers think the show is all sacred..  B.S.   We can boycott and speak out if we please.  If we want to watch, we can watch our favorite athletes and enjoy watching other competitors do amazing things and speak out against bigotry all at the same time.  Nobody needs to shut up because the IOC deems the games sacred.  That's just ridiculous.

I believe that your points are also valid.  My concern is not so much the punishment of the athletes for being political but for the athletes that are LGBT being punished or imprisoned by the Russian authorities.  So long as the IOC keeps all their athletes safe, this is the main concern. 

It is very true that so many Olympics have been in places where many human rights are at issue.  If you are going to boycott the Olympics now, then you had better be ready to boycott many more. 

I myself am unlikely to watch the Olympics in Russia because I do not agree with Russia's laws, however, the IOC is plainly upholding a law to keep the peace among their athletes and the countries holding their games.

I think your points are excellent.

100% Agree with you on this one. The Olympics are a time when the world is meant to set aside its differences and come together to compete in a respectful and entertaining way; not the time to bring these types of issues to the forefront. The last thing they need would be riots and protests happening during the Olympics in a country where their population have already proven time and time again they aren't afraid to get violent on these matters. The IOC is right in their decision, first because it preserves the nature of the event - that is an elite athletic competition - and doesn't distract from entertainment and peace it brings to neighboring countries and the pride and glory these athletes have sacrificed everything to obtain. Secondly,they are right in this decision because the IOC must represent all the member countries' interest (which are inevitably going to be conflicting) and they aren't the UN or something. They never have, and never should assume the role of enforcing human rights. That's not why the Olympic committee exists. They exist to organize the largest athletic competition in the world and preserve the heritage it came from. The Olympics simply aren't the time and place to fight for human rights in the hosting country, they are the time and place to fight for medals and your country's pride and glory. It would be heinously biased (even if it would be the right thing to do by western morale standards) to tell a country they can't host the Olympics because the Olympic committee doesn't agree with their human rights practices. Unfortunately the world still has conflicting views about Human Rights...but it's not up to the Olympic Committee to create a more unified world in that sense. I think they already do enough in the fact they can even get us to put our differences aside for long enough to enjoy the Olympics.

In that case, I look forward to seeing the Olympics held in Iran. Won't happen though, most countries would, and quite rightfully, boycott such, just like the US did 1980's Moscow Olympics...China got the bid 2008 'cos of this thing called Money...

Devil's advocate?  Try "dyed in the wool". The games are about athletes, correct.  Many of whom are GAY and wish to speak out as they are able to do in their own countries (such as the skater from New Zealand).  They speak out to give a voice to LBGT people in countries, such as Russia, where they cannot speak for themselves.  It is about letting them know that they are not alone, and they are on the right side of history.  It sounds to me like you should consider rethinking this. 

it isn't just the IOC or Russia, it's also the sponser's i bet they are already pressing hard on the coaches to make sure that a gay athlete doesn't walk around with a rainbow pin, or says in front of the camera ''i would like to thank my dearest husband for supporting me'' ecetra, and yeah i know for a fact that big brand names do not whant there brands to be asociated with anything gay, i know from a docu that ther is this dutch lesbian who hold lesbo beachparty's she CANNOT get brands like L'oreal, phillips or whatever to sponser her beachparty's simply because it is a lesbo beachparty. To the Sponsors of the IOC ask that you withdraw your support I don't want to associate you with oppression please help by not supporting the IOC I don't really need to point out why do I ?

This is not political propaganda, this is a HUMAN RIGHTS issue. WTF?

Well IOC I'm going to boycott all your crap from now on until this is sorted. you have lost me buying any merchandise relating to you.

If only some big name supporters would withdraw their support for the IOC do they have Sponsers ?.. Dare I dream ?

For all those who think that we are simply poking our noses in the Russians' business: 

This is the CNN of the former sovyet union - everyone in that part of the world watches this news channel (I am a Russian speaking Latvian, so I know). This person is the head of Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting. And he says (to an applauding audience) that gay people “should be banned from donating blood, sperm; their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”

I don't think this is about pink feather boas and skimpy outfits anymore. Wake the f*** up.

You are correct.  If an athlete chooses to sit silent while their counterparts in other nations are beat up, then they have that right. But, many of them are gay, and should have the same right to speak on behalf of people, who cannot speak for themselves, as they do in their own countries.

It is often not the people doing the crime we remember, as much as those who sit silently and allow it.  If they  chose, they should have the right to wear a simple pin.  What is Russia so scared of if they are proud of their stance? 

I guess the question to ask of the IOC is whether they would be as equally enthusiastic about taking stern measures against Russia in the event of anyone involved in the Olympics being discriminated against or being threatened or intimidated.

The IOC does have a history of having a hard line against protests, and you can see their point when they have a flagship international event that anyone in their right might would want to use as a platform if they could. The balance has to be that they are equally firm in ensuring that the Games are a place where everyone involved, from spectators to competitors, are absolutely assured of their safety from the host country and everyone else at the event.

"Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration."

What about Jesse Owens and Adolf Hitler?

This clause was the direct response to the 1968 award ceremony in which Tommie Smith and John Carlos made the "Black Power salute" to protest racial discrimination in the US. Therefore, Hitler's use of the 1936 Olympics to showcase the "New Germany" is moot to this discussion. The best way to protest the current and rampant anti-gay discrimination in Russia is to boycott the games. Too bad that the US has already boycotted them the last time they were held in there.


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