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Russia’s Isinbayeva: Remarks about homosexuality were ‘misunderstood’

Friday, August 16, 2013

MOSCOW — Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva’s comments on her country’s law against gay “propaganda” seemed as unequivocal as the bar-clearing jump that won her the world championship: She supported the law and derided gays.

But on Friday, Isinbayeva said that her comments, in somewhat fractured English the day before, may have been misunderstood and that she opposes any discrimination against gays.

Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP
Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva speaks during a press conference at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on Thursday.

The clarification — or U-turn — underlined the sensitivity of the issue for Russia as international criticism of the law persists and calls continue for a boycott of next February’s Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi.

The Olympics, like the world championships where Isinbayeva won gold and made her comments, are part of a series of major sports events that Russia hopes will showcase the country as sophisticated and forward-looking. The propaganda law has instead provoked criticism that Russia is retreating from the modern world.

Isinbayeva’s comments were especially dicey for Russia’s image. Not only is she an internationally popular athlete both for her skills and exuberance, but she is also the “mayor” of one of Sochi’s two Olympic villages, an honorary but symbolic and visible role.

“She is a very recognized figure around the world. And I think she should be thinking of what she is saying,” said Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia’s most prominent gay-rights activist. “I am not surprised that the story is starting to develop and she has to find an excuse for what she said.”

In a news conference on Thursday, the two-time Olympic gold medalist supported the Russian law and criticized two Swedish competitors for their rainbow-colored fingernails in support of gay rights.

“If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people. We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys,” she said.

But on Friday, after her comments attracted international attention, Isinbayeva said, “English is not my first language, and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday.”

“What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries, particularly when they are guests. I respect the views of my fellow athletes, and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people,” she said in a statement released by local organizers of the championships.

The law penalizes anyone who distributes information aimed at persuading minors that “nontraditional” relationships are normal or attractive. It appears that anyone wearing a rainbow flag on the street or writing about gay relationships on Facebook, for instance, could be accused of propagandizing.

The law has raised concern about how gay athletes might be treated in Sochi. Russian officials have made contradictory statements about whether the law would be enforced during the games, and the International Olympic Committee has asked for clarification. Foreigners found guilty of violating the law could be imprisoned for 15 days and deported.

“The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes,” Claudia Bokel, chair of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission, said on her Twitter account. “We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”

Both the law and Isinbayeva’s first comments appear to have placed other Russian athletes in a quandary — support for individual rights vs. support for their country.

Though Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, antipathy toward gays has been widespread and longstanding in Russia.

A survey by the independent Levada Center polling agency released a week after the law was passed found 76 percent of Russians supported it and 17 percent opposed it.

Although Isinbayeva’s comments Thursday received wide attention in the West, Russian media gave them little or no attention. The sports newspaper Sport-Express ran a roundup of foreign comment on the issue on its website but not in its print edition.

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116 more reader comments:

  1. what a putz this vacant jock is.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:12pm
  2. I think she is the one who misunderstood- she misunderstood the outrage that would come as a result of her homophobic blathering.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:14pm
  3. shut up fuck face!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:15pm
  4. I love the “guests should respect the laws”. I suppose that works out well for countries who make laws against human rights and dignity. For those of us with a conscience on the other hand….

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:18pm
  5. |Go Fuck ya self Bitch!!!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:19pm
  6. Asshole !!!!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:19pm
  7. yeah….this morning they were…..LOL

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:22pm
  8. I do respect all laws when they are just and right, what Russia has done smacks of Nazism

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:22pm
  9. stop while you´re behind girlie

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:22pm
  10. Would love to tell her: “My conscience takes precedence over unjust laws, birdbrain!«2

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:22pm
  11. SURE they were. Fuck Russia.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:23pm
  12. Fuck her and her morality.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:24pm
  13. That didn´t take long did it. If she has to be shamed into backing off then shame on her!!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:26pm
  14. She dances around the problem. Opposing discrimination and obeying laws of Russia while visiting is easy if you are straight or deep in the closet. Of course, she wants the world to do something, just not disturb her sports career at the Olympics.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:28pm
  15. No miracle can save her sorry ass now, the damage has been done. At least we know what she thinks about gay people, would be best if she didn´t lie now.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:29pm
  16. “What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests. I respect the views of my fellow athletes and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people.”

    Yet people can´t take it for what it says….*smh*

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:29pm
  17. Hmmmmm. That is my new expression for a person who cannot face the TRUTH ABOUT THEMSELVES and when they are backed into a corner – they will lie to make themselves look better.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:33pm
  18. Wait, you´re mad? Oh, I didn´t mean it THAT way…

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:38pm
  19. Whatever bitch. FUCK RUSSIA! Gave us the Boston bombers took in a spy and then this, Fuck Russia !

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:38pm
  20. I know the olympics are important to people, but when you step back from the emotional involvement, the ego involvement,,,it is a game. Sports, in general, has fans that get over invested, fights break out, serious injuries, at times, death. over a GAME! Its a game. I love sports! I love the olympics, but for countries to participate in them with this level of hate is like supporting that hate. I don´t know, that is what I think about it all. The emotions and egos are getting out of control. I hope people can support their gay athletes, and not blame them for anything that may or may not happen.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:41pm
  21. You can tell Miss Mississippi Russia to kiss my ass! Funny how Russia and the Dixie South have so much in common regarding human rights abuses and sheer ignorance!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:43pm
  22. Reality merely says to pull the Olympics out of Russia. Anything less endangers more athletes than they would like to admit!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:46pm
  23. Please! Her strident stupidity was heard and understood loud and clear!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:46pm
  24. stupid bitch

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:47pm
  25. yeah right…

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:53pm
  26. We may not be able to have the winter games boycotted this next year, but we can keep them out of any other Olympics!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:53pm
  27. no honey, we heard you loud and clear.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 4:04pm
  28. Right

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 4:05pm
  29. GFYB!!!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 4:15pm
  30. Russians have no interest in joining our century.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 4:27pm
  31. I love how these people want to start flip flopping on what they said after they realize the enormity of the negative press they get from it. That´s even worse, now it looks like you have no backbone.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 4:31pm
  32. She is afraid that now she won´t get a visa to compete in other western nations now so is rushing to back track her remarks to protect her career

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 4:47pm
  33. she should have stopped what she was saying before she got to boys are with girls and girls are with boys…..you need to look deeper in the closets

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:08pm
  34. Ignorance is the same in all languages

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:09pm
  35. Haha,the old flip-flop!!!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:10pm
  36. flip-flop

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:18pm
  37. Ha ha ha!!! It´s called backlash, Miss Isinbayeva! What´s the matter, did a sponsor threaten to withdraw their endorsement? Or maybe several? To be sure you understand my English: We live in world of diversity – we understand that sometimes woman loves woman and boy loves boy. It´s human nature NOT CONFUSING, you troglodyte.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:21pm
  38. We should respect the laws of other countries?!? Is she nuts. YAY FOR STONING WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:37pm
  39. Wow. A new Olympic event: Back Pedaling….

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:46pm
  40. F*ck her!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:47pm
  41. Yeah right. Worried about revenue now are we?

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:47pm
  42. They weren´t misunderstood!!! MEAN WHAT YOU SAY AND SAY WHAT YOU MEAN!!! Good,Bad or in Between if you said it OWN IT!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:50pm
  43. Yeah, she´s now in full damage-control mode. Fuck her.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:51pm
  44. Too late BITCH!

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 6:07pm
  45. This photo of her is just a little bit creepy looking. Is she really a girl?

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 6:11pm
  46. Good luck putting that horse back in the barn…

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 6:11pm
  47. We are under no obligation to respect unjust laws, especially those that deny basic human rights, period. That the IOC is in bed with these thugs says a lot.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 6:17pm
  48. Fuck everything about Russia right now, and fuck all you assholes ripping on how she looks as opposed to what she´s saying.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 6:29pm
  49. I laugh at those demanding tolerance who all the while are sitting here using misogynistic, hateful language.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 6:41pm
  50. Your lack of brains do not give you permission to say stupid things. That´s the misunderstanding here.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 7:00pm
  51. maybe…

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 7:09pm
  52. I think we had no problem understanding you quite clearly …run along now

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 7:13pm
  53. What she MEANT to say was, “I eat pussy like it was brown bread, everday, all the time, washed down with vodka. Mmmmm I love to eat that pussy.”

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 7:24pm
  54. Well Russian isn´t my first language but I bet she would understand a huge “FU BITCH”

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 7:56pm
  55. She is thinking about losing out on invites and all the dosh that will cost her.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 7:59pm
  56. Too little, too late. Opening her mouth at this point will only fan the flames of her attempted side-stepping. I´m sure she was threatened by the government in some way with the Olympics coming. Trouble is, when you live in a cocoon, it´s easy to justify bigoted laws and expect them to sound okay. I still want to thank her for the free advertising she gave to this issue by throwing an even bigger spotlight on the idiocy of it all. Just let Russia TRY to enforce this law against visiting athletes. I´m excited about the coming Olympics, I´m even MORE excited about the impending coverage and the aftermath that follows. ;)

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 8:02pm
  57. No, her words were not misunderstood at all, no matter what language she used.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 10:10pm
  58. Mean girl Yelana was misunderstood. Yeah. Right.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 10:29pm
  59. Oh you mean sorta like that shop clerk who was misunderstood by Oprah? Hmmmmm. Sounds like a convenient excuse for ignorance and bigotry.

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 11:01pm
  60. Yeah and this is all I have to say about this Russian whore – shut the fuck up and die

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 11:19pm
  61. she will say what is best for her and one cannot blame her…

    Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 11:28pm
  62. Just look at all the hateful and discriminatory comments from people that are fighting hate and discrimination. She has a right to her views and opinions just like you do yours. She didnt say anything hateful, just spoke her opinion. Thats her right, just like you have yours. Respect goes both ways.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 1:27am
  63. Really?

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 2:17am
  64. Yeah rmisunderstood my aunt fanny… you got brought up short by your handlers and told to fix it. I´ve seen your kind before babycakes during the cold war… nice try, no cigar.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 2:33am
  65. track back much?!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:38am
  66. Homophobic foreign people, always making hateful remarks, then blaming it on the “translations.”

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:40am
  67. Idiot

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:41am
  68. Well I´m glad it was just a misunderstanding and that she realized she misspoke. I can´t blame someone for realizing they made a mistake. That´s the first step. Why be mean? Maybe she´ll do some type of humanitarian work to make up?

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:46am
  69. On Thursday, Isinbayeva said: “If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consid er ourselves like normal, standard people. We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.” << enough saying, Russian pervert

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:48am
  70. She likes boys as Putin likes girls young as kinder garden ages. I guess

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:49am
  71. Annnnd here comes the backtracking. Like clockwork.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:50am
  72. It worries me that she refers to “boys” as opposed to “men”…

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:50am
  73. Come on ! Now she is trying to arrange the words….

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:52am
  74. Isinbeyeva, you ignorant slut.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:54am
  75. She´s probably one more of those homophobics who doesn´t wanna be compared to a nazi, after behaving like one.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:54am
  76. Russia should create laws that lock Isinbayeva for being a pervert who is an adult likes “boys”. Target gays is wrong. I´m sure Putin is seeing girls on the side are 20 years younger than his current wife´s age.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:55am
  77. Message to Russians: you are no longer living in the Communist state. If the president doesn´t fix your ideal, impeach him.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:58am
  78. lip my stockings!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:01am
  79. Nothing misunderstood hear her homophobia was very clear.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:05am
  80. fuck you russian

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:09am
  81. Forget it woman….you can go join Putin and his Gestapo.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:15am
  82. It is amazingly sad when someone as public and as admired as her shows her real narrow minded way of thinking. I am as disappointed as I once admired her talent. :(

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:23am
  83. what is to misunderstand, you are a bigoted cunt.. simple

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:36am
  84. Can we spell T-H-R-E-A-T-S???

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:53am
  85. How many times do we here ´Confused in translation….interpreted incorrectly…etc´ Miss Isinbayeva knew exactly what she was saying, part of the dare we say new Soviet Putin regime endorsement of sadistic ideals ! At least have the courage to admit you are a ignorant Bigot that wishes a weak minority of your Russian citizens harm ! BOYCOTT RUSSIA IN ALL THINGS ! ;o(

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 7:17am
  86. She has to tow the party line outside Moscow OR ELSE! You know that…

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 7:26am
  87. “Tell Us What You Really Think” Hell With Putried!! oops

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 7:53am
  88. Fuck off bitch your only thinking ,Sponsors!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 9:47am
  89. cunt

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 10:15am
  90. Stop lying!!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 11:22am
  91. Suzy, would you have said the same thing to the Jews in Germany in 1936?

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 11:38am
  92. What she meant to say is just as bad, worse because she is defending what she said in the first place.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 12:38pm
  93. Thats what they all say!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 12:46pm
  94. Bullshit.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 1:00pm
  95. The only person misunderstanding Yelena Isinbayeva´s original comments is Yelena Isinbayeva.
    BOYCOTT!!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 1:19pm
  96. *side eye*

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 1:23pm
  97. back peddle beotch…

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 1:27pm
  98. If a law is wrong, I protest it.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 1:48pm
  99. Wait… Who gives a fuck bout Russia?? Land of fetal alcohol syndrome, Comies, poverty, & drunk driving… Wow Russia go fuck yourself :D nobody need your opinions & bullshit!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 3:04pm
  100. Russians are so fucked up that the only way they can express their sad existence is though hate, greed and violence. It seems that Russia will be the new Nazi state of the 21st century.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 3:30pm
  101. She said it and she will live with it, with many disgusted in her.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 4:21pm
  102. An idiot is an idiot in any language. Evil Empire Part II?

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 4:43pm
  103. Hello Olympics. So, the Danish foreign minister shown again that he has dense medat understand what is happening on the other side of Valby hills. He has with closed eyes, put up against LGBT Denmark, but not with the homosexuals in Russia. The rest of us can only shake my head. The minister talks about criticism and it is a strong weapon to use boycott. It is probably the only minister and I am union on this issue too. But we have seen him admit he has been wrong before we can hope when he becomes aware that this dissiplin as Minister mastered to perfection, again, is entered in a clear first place. The Minister should perhaps when the gold is above slated to him, in his acceptance speech explaining all those who would like to help those homosexuals what to do when a strong weapon boycott fails to minister to use, and when they Reller as LO works from, says that the homolov that Russia has adopted is ready in violation of OLS rules. What Jacques Rogge has bekraftet. LGBT Denmark will we have responsible do not heed, but go for a solution outside the LGBT Denmark and the Danish foreign minister short rows, but sure uphill, now that the LGBT and the Minister has lost steam here in the long run. Continue fighting against this homolov. Bjarne

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 4:49pm
  104. So you guys are mad because gay propaganda is illegal in Russia but I don´t see anyone complaining about Israel beheading homosexuals or beating them to death……

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 4:59pm
  105. Ignorant

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:01pm
  106. Matthew, can you back up your claims?

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:02pm
  107. I thought that was a picture of Michael Jackson

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 5:47pm
  108. No BITCH they weren´t! We ALL understood perfectly!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:06pm
  109. yeah…sure they were you bitcch

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:24pm
  110. i used to feel sorry for the russians as they had the most casualties in the wwii…now im starting to think maybe they hadnt had enough

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:40pm
  111. Yeah, only after the backlash! Lying bitch!

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:47pm
  112. You weren´t misunderstood you said exactly what you wanted to say you are now backing off you statement cause you lack courage of your convictions. Or you really have seen how disgusting your comments are

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 7:20pm
  113. Lying bitch! You said exactly what you meant.

    Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 8:58pm
  114. Lying bitch.

    Posted on Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 12:32am
  115. She said what she said and now she´s trying to sugar coat everything, sorry it don´t work like that. It´s called think before you run your mouth. What a bucket case.

    Posted on Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 2:07am
  116. Did you know ichthyosapiens were politically active — and homophobic? http://dandygoat.com/alcoholic-coastal-fish-to-russia-keep-your-anti-gay-laws

    Posted on Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 1:13pm