Russian Minister to IOC: International LGBT Olympians at Risk

by Charles Joughin

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko directly disputes claim from International Olympic Committee that international LGBT visitors attending Sochi Games are exempt from hateful law

WASHINGTON – Claims made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that international LGBT visitors to Russia would be safe during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi appear to be coming apart at the seams today as Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko declared that all LGBT athletes within Russian borders will be very much at risk during the 2014 Games.

"No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable,"Mutko told R-Sport, a Russian sporting news agency.

Mutko’s remarks called into question the IOC’s claims that it has received assurances from “the highest level of government in Russia” that international LGBT Olympians and visitors to the 2014 Sochi Games would be exempt from a newly-passed law prohibiting “homosexual propaganda.”

“With this latest development, one wonders which Russian authorities the IOC is speaking to,” said Human Rights Campaign vice president for communications Fred Sainz. “Within the past two days, two Russian officials have gone out of their way to contradict the IOC in no uncertain terms. The opinion of the Russian government is now perfectly clear: if you’re gay and you come to Russia for the Olympics, you may be imprisoned and deported.

“What this makes all the more clear is that LGBT Russians and expats alike are also in peril. The law is so obtuse that circumstances can be contrived to prosecute LGBT individuals who are simply living their lives. These laws are an abomination and pose a human rights imperative for all to speak out.”

Earlier this week, HRC President Chad Griffin called on the IOC not to be credulous: “Mere verbal assurances from the Russian government that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough. The IOC must obtain ironclad written assurance from President Putin. But more importantly, they should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics. Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.”  

Now, it seems, this call to action is all the more urgent.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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