MOSCOW, August 8 (R-Sport) – IAAF president Lamine Diack said Thursday that Russia’s controversial legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors "has to be respected" but will have no impact on the upcoming world athletics championships in Moscow.
World leaders, gay rights activists and athletes have been clamoring in recent weeks over the law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, and denouncing Russian officials and issuing calls to boycott the Sochi 2014 Olympics next February.
On Thursday, Diack, the 80-year-old longtime leader of the International Association of Athletics Federations, brushed off the suggestion that the rising international uproar might cast a pall over – or, worse, interrupt – the championships, Russia’s first major international sport competition ahead of the Olympics.
“I don’t have the feeling that there will be a problem,” Diack told an IAAF press conference ahead of the championships, which start August 10.
“I’m sure we’re not going to be disturbed by political problems. I have no problem whatsoever and I’m not worried at all.”
Sitting alongside Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, Diack stressed that Russia has a set of laws and they must be followed. It is not the IAAF’s place, he said, to “start calling on people to do this and that.”
“Some things have to be respected and some things don’t have to be respected,” he said. “There is a law that exists and this has to be respected.”
Also on Thursday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said foreign governments, sports federations and athletes should “calm down” over the law.
While the law’s proponents argue that it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege that the move is part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
Russia has come under international criticism, including from the European Court of Human Rights, for its treatment of gay people.