U.S. runner Symmonds attacks Russia's anti-gay law

Wed Aug 7, 2013 10:09am EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Multiple American 800m champion Nick Symmonds has become the first competitor at the world athletics championships to criticize Russia's anti-gay propaganda law but maintains he will say no more out of respect for the host nation.

Symmonds, fifth in last year's Olympic 800m final and a medal prospect in Moscow next week, wrote in his blog for Runner's World magazine that he "disagreed" with the controversial new legislation, which outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and has become a political hot potato for next year's Sochi winter Olympics, when it will apply to athletes and spectators.

U.S. President Barack Obama weighed into the controversy late on Tuesday, saying he had "no patience" for Russia on the issue, while other senior sporting figures have also spoken out against the development.

"Several people who know me to be a relatively vocal athlete when it comes to political issues were excited to hear me discuss what it's like to compete in a country with questionable human rights laws," Symmonds wrote.

"Given that I have always been adamant in my support of gay rights at home in the United States, I assumed these followers were referring to Russia's 'anti-gay propaganda' legislation.

"These laws, which do not expressly prohibit being homosexual, criminalize public discussion of homosexuality, especially with foreigners. As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place.

"I will say, once again, that our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days, this will be the last time I will mention this subject.

"I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend's house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.   Continued...