September 4, 2013 / 11:17 PM / 6 years ago

IOC consider action over Isinbayeva gay comments

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee will consider taking action against pole vault world champion Yelena Isinbayeva, a Youth Olympics ambassador, after her comments in favor of Russia’s new gay law triggered a major controversy last month.

Gold medallist Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia holds her medal at the women's pole vault victory ceremony during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow August 15, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The Russian, who won the world title in Moscow in August, caused a major stir with her comments about homosexuality.

“We will consider this in due time,” IOC President Jacques Rogge told reporters when asked whether the Russian athlete was an appropriate ambassador for the Youth Games given her recent comments.

Isinbayeva, a double Olympic champion, had been critical of foreign athletes’ reaction to Russia’s gay law.

“We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys ... it comes from the history,” she had said at the time. “I hope the problem won’t ruin our Olympic Games in Sochi.”

Isinbayeva is also the ceremonial mayor of the Olympic village at the Sochi 2014 winter Games and will be a torchbearer in the relay at the event.

Rogge did not elaborate on what kind of action and when it may be taken against the Russian but ruled out pressing the government further on the matter. Rogge is due to step down on September 10.

“We have received oral and written assurances (from the Russian government),” he said. “We are staging the Games in a sovereign state and the IOC cannot be expected to have an influence in the affairs of a sovereign state.

Critics say the law is one of a string of repressive measures introduced by President Vladimir Putin in the first year of his third presidential term that clamp down on dissent, violate gay rights and restrain non-governmental organizations.

This is not the first time Rogge, who is stepping down after 12 years in charge with a successor to be elected next week, has had to deal with controversial laws in a country where the Games are being staged.

The IOC was under constant fire in the run-up to the Beijing 2008 Games over the country’s human rights record and its restrictions on the use of the internet, among other things.

“We have clearly expressed our views on situations in countries but we are restricted in our powers and actions as guests,” he said in his last solo press conference in charge of the IOC.

Asked whether he had enjoyed his years at head of the world’s biggest multi-sports organization, Rogge said: “Have I enjoyed it? Not always. Was it exciting? Definitely.”

Editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Mulvenney

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