Isinbayeva gay comments may trigger IOC action

  • AP, Buenos Aires
  • |
  • Updated: Sep 05, 2013 12:06 IST

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) will consider dropping Russian pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva as an Olympic ambassador following her comments about gay people, IOC President Jacques Rogge said on Wednesday.

In his final solo news conference as head of the International Olympic Committee, Rogge also said the IOC has no power to influence Russia on the anti-gay legislation that has provoked an international outcry ahead of February's Winter Games in Sochi.

"One should not forget that we are staging games in a sovereign state and that the International Olympic Committee cannot be expected to have an influence on sovereign affairs of a country," Rogge said.

Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Isinbayeva spoke in defence of Russia's law against gay "propaganda" after winning the title at last month's world championships in Moscow.

Isinbayeva condemned homosexuality, saying Russians have "normal" heterosexual relations, and criticised two Swedish athletes who painted their fingernails in rainbow colours in support of gay rights. The next day, Isinbayeva said her comments in English may have been misunderstood and that she is against any discrimination.

Her initial comments appeared to go against the IOC ideals and the promotional role she has held since 2010 as an ambassador for the Youth Olympics. Isinbayeva is also the "mayor" of one of two Olympic villages in Sochi, an honorary but symbolic and visible role.
Asked whether it was appropriate for Isinbayeva to remain as an Olympic ambassador, Rogge gave his first public indication that she could be removed from the role.

"This is something we will consider in due time," he said. Russia's law prohibiting promotion of "nontraditional" sexual relations has been denounced by activists and criticised by President Barack Obama. Activists have called for a boycott of the Sochi Games, although Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have ruled that out.

Rogge reiterated that the IOC has received assurances from the Russian government that it will abide by the Olympic Charter and that the law will not discriminate against athletes and spectators in Sochi.

Rogge was asked whether the IOC has a moral obligation to speak out strongly on such issues with host countries.

"We have clearly, on various occasions, expressed our view on situations in countries, but we are restricted in our power and our actions by the fact
that we are the guest of a sovereign country where we hold the games," he said.

Rogge said preparations were on track for the Sochi Games, with only "fine-tuning" left before the opening ceremony on February 7.


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