Russian Official Says Gay Athletes Could Be Arrested At 2014 Sochi Olympics

Nathan Francis

A Russian lawmaker says gay athletes who show up for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014 will risk being arrested under the country's newly enacted law against "gay propaganda."

Vitaly Milonov, who co-sponsored a bill against "non-traditional relationships," said the government is bound to enforce the law, even if that means arresting international athletes competing in the Olympics.

At the same time, the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government assured them that gay foreign athletes have no reason to fear arrest.

In a statement, the committee said:

"The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,...The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle."

But Milonov has stood firm, saying his legislation will be enforced, even during the Olympics.

"I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law," Milonov told Interfax in a report translated to English by Gaystar News. "If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn't have the authority."

The law, enacted in June, has been met with worldwide criticism. The legislation is aimed at those who spread "gay propaganda," which activists believe will give officials a wide breadth to punish homosexuals.

The legislature essentially makes displays of homosexuality illegal, banning the spread of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," or any relations "not conducive to procreation," for anyone under age 18.

The passage of the law was by demonstrations in Russia, as several activists were detained for a kissing protest. Worldwide, several gay rights groups and gay bars have endorsed a boycott of Russian vodka, though other gay rights leaders say this effort will have no effect.

Russia has been criticized for a high level of discrimination against homosexuality, which was only decriminalized in 1993. There have been attacks on a gays and other measures to discriminate against gays, like a ban on adoption from same-sex couples.

The reports that Russia could arrest gay athletes have been questioned, however. It appears that no sources other than Vitaly Milonov has claimed that international athletes could risk arrest, or whether they could be arrested at all.