MOSCOW, August 1 (R-Sport) - The International Olympic Committee told R-Sport on Thursday that it was unmoved by comments from a Russian minister that athletes at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi would be subject to the country’s law banning so-called gay propaganda.
An athlete found to be “propagandizing” gay relationships in Sochi would be “held accountable,” Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport on Thursday.
That contradicted an IOC statement from last week in which the organization said it had “assurances from the highest level of government in Russia” that athletes and spectators would be exempt from the law, which has sparked calls from activists to boycott the Sochi Olympics.
The IOC said Thursday that it still had faith in those assurances.
“For the time being, we rest with the assurances we have … that this law will not affect either athletes, officials or spectators,” spokesman Andrew Mitchell told R-Sport in an emailed statement.
R-Sport understands that the source of the assurances cited by the IOC outranks Mutko.
The legislation, signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June, levies fines for such offenses from from 4,000 rubles ($120) to 5,000 rubles ($150) for individuals and up to $30,500 for legal entities such as companies or NGOs.
While the law’s proponents argue it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege the move is part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
Russia has come under international criticism, including from the European Court of Human Rights, for its treatment of gay people.
Some gay bars in North America have reportedly refused to stock Russian vodka as a sign of protest at the law, and the legislation has attracted calls from activists around the world to boycott Russia’s first Winter Olympics.
In one protest in the United States on Wednesday, dozens of gay-rights advocates dumped bottles of vodka outside the Russian consulate in New York.
The protesters also called for the corporate sponsors of the Sochi Games, including Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonalds, Procter & Gamble, and Samsung to pull their backing.