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IOC under fire over gay athletes stance

Tennis great Martina Navratilova lashes out against governing body over Russia law ahead of Sochi Olympics.

Last updated: 11 Dec 2013 11:07
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New Zealand's Blake Skjellerup could be the only gay athlete at Sochi 2014 [Getty Images]

Tennis star Martina Navratilova and US basketballer Jason Collins have accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of not doing enough to defend the rights of gay athletes ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Navratilova, who has become a champion for gay athletes in sport since revealing she was gay in 1981, said on Tuesday she was disappointed with the IOC "for really putting their head in the sand" over the Russian law.

"The IOC needs to stand up better for their athletes quite frankly," Navratilova said.

Navratilova and Collins said focus should not just be on the Sochi Games in February and March, but also on the rights of gay Russians and on anti-gay laws in other countries that will play host to global sporting events in the future.

"It's (also) what happens after, and it's not just one country, it's many countries.

"Nobody is talking about, for example, Qatar, where the World Cup is going to be and homosexual activity is punishable by a jail term there."

The IOC has said it has received written assurances from the Russian government that the "gay propaganda" law would not affect Games participants and spectators.

Putin reassures participants

British diver Tom Daley recently revealed he was in a relationship with a man [Getty Images]

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in October that everything was being done "so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation".

Meanwhile, Collins said that sporting bodies such as the IOC and FIFA should carefully consider the countries and cities with which they link their brands.

Collins became the first openly gay active player in North America's four major professional sports leagues - the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and Major League Baseball - in April.

British diver Tom Daley, who won bronze at London 2012, became the latest athlete to announce he was gay when he released a YouTube video revealing his relationship with a man.

In the video, the 19-year-old said that "come spring this year, my life changed massively when I met someone and it made me feel so happy, so safe … That someone is a guy".

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