Hockey player: The world has to respect Russia’s anti-gay law during the Sochi Games

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Professional Russian ice hockey player, Ilya Kovalchuk has defended Russia’s anti-gay law which was passed in June. He called on fellow athletes to respect the law in the run up to Sochi Olympics next year.

The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin back in June, bans the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” to minors.

Kovalchuk who has played at the top flight of Russian ice hockey defended the anti-gay legislation in comments made to The Sports Network (TSN). Regarding the gay “propaganda” law he said, “I agree, of course.”

Continuing, he said: “I’m Russian and we all have to respect that. It’s personal and, like I said, it’s a free world, but that’s our line. That’s our country, so everybody has to respect that.”

Kovalchuk is not the only high profile Russian sports personality to defend the anti-gay legislation, during the World Athletics Championship, Russian pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva criticised other competitors for speaking out against the law and claimed that the law was needed to protect “normal, standard people.”

Earlier this month, Russian World Cup chief, Alexey Sorokin also came to the defence of his country’s law and claimed that it was to guard against “the promotion of homosexuality and not homosexuality itself.”

The Russian government have sent reassurances to the International Olympic Committee claiming that the law is not discriminatory because it does not specifically target LGBT people. President Vladimir Putin has promised that the law will not interfere with the smooth running of the Games despite the fact the Interior Ministry has confirmed that the law shall not be suspended throughout the duration of the Games.

Those convicted under the law can face up to 14 days in prison as well as a fine. In recent months the Russian Parliament has sought to bring in more anti-gay laws including preventing LGBT people from adopting children and recently calls for the blood ban on gay men to be reenacted after it was abolished in 2008.

Some LGBT rights campaigners have not been content with the IOCs response and have called for a boycott of the Games as well as a boycott of Russian vodka.