MOSCOW, August 13 (R-Sport) – US middle distance runner Nick Symmonds dedicated his 800-meter silver medal at the world athletics championships Tuesday to his gay and lesbian friends back home, becoming the first athlete to openly criticize Russia's controversial anti-gay law on the country's soil.
"As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them," he told R-Sport after running a 1:43.55 at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. "Whether you're gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there's anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested."
Symmonds, 29, made his opposition to a new law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors known in a blog post for Runner's World magazine on August 6.
Despite his outspokenness in the United States, he said he would he would not bring up the subject in Russia out of respect for the host country's laws.
"I respect Russians' ability to govern their people," he said Tuesday. "I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules."
The anti-gay legislation, which was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June, has quickly become a dark cloud looming over February's Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee, which said last week it wanted clarifications on the law before taking an official stance, is facing mounting pressure from rights groups and celebrities who have called for a full-fledged boycott of the Sochi Games.
The IOC has insisted it has received assurances from high-level officials the law will not be enforced for athletes and spectators during the Games – but Russia's Interior Ministry issued a rebuttal of sorts on Monday, confirming the "promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors" is illegal for anyone.