U.S. Runner Symmonds Speaks Out in Moscow, Breaks Blog Post Promise
Shortly after winning the silver medal in the 800-meter final at the World Championships in Moscow yesterday, U.S. middle distance runner Nick Symmonds broke a promise made to fans in a blog post and became the first athlete to speak out against Russia’s gay propaganda law while on Russian soil.
As reported by Russian news agency Ria Novosti, in an interview yesterday with R-Sport, shortly after winning a silver medal at the World Championships in Moscow, Symmonds, said that he dedicated his win to his gay and lesbian friends.
"As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them," he told R-Sport after running a 1:43.55 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. "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."
The move to speak out against the Russian government’s treatment of its LGBT citizens contradicts a promise made by Symmonds in an Aug. 6 blog post published on RunnersWorld.com to remain silent about his politics while competing in Moscow.
"If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home," he said. "Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union. "
Symmonds’ public statement against the controversial law and the potential consequences that may arise as a result, adds to the list of growing concerns over how the "homosexual propaganda" law will affect athletes competing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year.
The law, which recently passed by an overwhelming margin in both houses of the Russian legislature and was quickly signed by president Vladmir Putin bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," but has very nebulous parameters. Even Russians are unclear as to which acts break the law, thanks to the measure’s vague wording. What is clear, however, are its punishments: according to Bloomberg, a maximum fine of one million rubles ($30,438) for citizens and 15 days jail time and deportation for foreign citizens.
The Russian law has sparked controversy across the globe ranging from a well-publicized boycott against Russian vodka to a public statement by President Barrack Obama denouncing the policy. The IOC has yet to receive clarification from the Russian government about whether athletes would be arrested if charged with breaking the law.
As middle distance running is a Summer Olympics event, Symmonds will not be competing in Sochi.