Tennis star Martina Navratilova and US basketball player Jason Collins said on Tuesday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not done enough to defend the rights of gay athletes ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Russia triggered angry criticism and even calls to boycott the Sochi Games when, in June, it banned spreading "gay propaganda" to minors. Critics denounced the law as discriminatory and a curb on rights to free speech and assembly.
Speaking at the United Nations to mark International Human Rights Day, Navratilova and Collins said focus should not just be on the Sochi Games in February and March, but also on the rights of gay Russians and on anti-gay laws in other countries that will play host to global sporting events in the future.
Navratilova, who has become a champion for gay athletes in sport since revealing she was gay in 1981, said she was disappointed with the International Olympic Committee "for really putting their head in the sand" over the Russian law.
"The IOC needs to stand up better for their athletes quite frankly," she told reporters. "It's (also) what happens after, and it's not just one country, it's many countries."
The IOC has said it has received written assurances from the Russian government that the "gay propaganda" law would not affect Games participants and spectators.