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Russian Sports Minister Likens Homosexuality To Alcoholism And Drug Abuse

posted 18 Aug 2013, 06:47 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 18 Aug 2013, 06:48 ]

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko defends the controversial anti-gay law, likens homosexuality to alcoholism and drug abuse, welcomes everybody to the Sochi Olympics in Russia.

MOSCOWRUSSIA (AUGUST 18, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko defended the controversial law banning gay propaganda and likened homosexuality to alcoholism and drug abuse at a news conference on Sunday (August 18).

Speaking on the last day of the world athletics championships in Moscow, Mutko said the controversy around the law is an invented problem focused on by Western media.

The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" and imposes fines on those holding gay pride rallies.

It has attracted international condemnation and cast a shadow over the athletics world championships in Moscow, with questions raised over whether the law will apply to athletes and spectators at next year's Winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is seeking clarification from Russiawhile there have already been some calls for a boycott of the Games.

Mutko told reporters before the start of the track and field championships that critics should "calm down", saying the rights of all athletes competing in Sochi will be respected.

He reiterated that point on Sunday, following a media furore caused by Russian pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva's comments defending the law.

"I had to answer this question many times already. Let me clarify once again, this law does not discriminate in any way against interests of citizens, including foreign citizens, including athletes, participants, organizers, or those people who will come to Russia. Look, we have been together with you for ten days here - if anybody has any problems I would like to hear about them," Mutko said.

Critics of the anti-propaganda law have said it effectively disallows all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals.

Mutko said the law was intended to protect Russian children.

"We want to protect our children whose minds have not yet been shaped up from propaganda of drug abuse, alcoholism and non-traditional sexual relationships. We want them to make their own decisions when they grow up. That's what this law is directed at," Mutko said.

Few athletes at the world championships have openly talked about the legislation, although Russia's world pole vault champion Yelena Isibayeva caused international uproar when she spoke out in favour of it and appeared to condemn homosexuality, before later backtracking and saying she had been misunderstood.

American 800 metres silver medallist Nick Symmonds branded her as "behind the times", while Swedish high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro made a gesture of support for Russia's gay community during competition by painting her fingernails in the colours of the rainbow flag used by the gay movement.

After being warned the gesture broke the sport's code of conduct, Green-Tregaro appeared in Saturday's final with her raibow nails changed to red.

Mutko, without referring to Green-Tregaro, said he hoped athletes in Sochi "come to compete and don't have time for other things".

He reiterated that athletes' private lives in Sochi were safe.

"Welcome to Russia, to Sochi! Let me say once again all rights and freedoms of citizens will be protected here, and there will be no any discrimination here," Mutko said.

Russia's gay propaganda law attracted criticism from several global high-profile fugures, including British writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry who compared it to the Nazis' persecution of the Jews and said the Sochi Games would be in danger of leaving the same "stain on the five rings" as Hitler's 1936 Berlin Games.

U.S. President Barack Obama also weighed in, saying he was "running out of patience" with Russia over the issue.