Russia: US track and field star dedicates Moscow silver medal to gay and lesbian friends

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A US athlete has become the first to speak out in favour of lesbian and gay people whilst competing on Russian soil, using his victory speech after winning silver, in protest against anti-gay laws passed in June.

Nick Symmonds, a US track and field star, won silver in the men’s 800m at the Moscow World Athletic Championships yesterday. The issue of foreign athletes competing in Russia has cause an international outcry ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics due to take place in February.

On receiving the medal, he also vowed to do everything he can to help the cause.

He said: “As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them. Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”


Nick Symmonds completes a victory lap after winning silver in the men’s 800m

Since making the speech in support of lesbian and gay people, Symmonds has tweeted several times to reiterate his stance.

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.

The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.

On Monday, the Russian Interior Ministry confirmed that recently introduced anti-gay legislation will remain in force during the Sochi games.

A petition which has gathered over 150,000 signatures, calls for the 2014 games to be relocated to Vancouver, following the passage of anti-gay laws in Russia.

In an interview last week, a senior International Olympics Committee member said: “Russia must respect the Olympic Charter, or we will say goodbye to them”, broaching the question of relocating the games with the IOC for the first time.

The international football governing body FIFA yesterday called on Russia to give “clarification and more details” about the laws ahead of the 2018 World Cup due to take place in the country.