Openly gay Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham says Russia’s new anti-gay laws, which would result in athletes at next year’s Sochi Winter Olympics jailed if they are involved in any type of gay pride activities, are “horrific.”
“It’s really sad,” Mitcham told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. “The way they are persecuting people in Russia is quite horrific.”
Mitcham’s remarks come amid growing international concern over Russia’s anti-gay laws, and how enforcement of those laws would affect athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Mitcham said Russia’s anti-gay laws would hinder performances and take away the joy of the Games experience.
“The Olympics is the best experience you will ever have as an athlete,” he said. “Their whole memory and experience is going to be marred by this stuff. They are going to be made to feel unacceptable, inappropriate, and it is a really awful, awful feeling. .
Gay pride rallies also are banned, as are public displays of affection between two people of the same gender, including holding hands.
On Thursday, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said Russia will enforce the law when it hosts international athletes and fans during the Winter Games, contradicting an earlier report by the International Olympic Committee that it had received assurances that athletes and spectators attending the the games would be exempt from an anti-gay statue.
Mitcham, a gold medal-winning diver from the 2008 Beijing Games, said the laws were in violation of basic human rights.