In a first, US athlete criticizes anti-gay law on Russian soil at athletics championships

Nick Symmonds dedicates silver medal to gay and lesbian friends

After collecting his 800-metre silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Russia, American athlete Nick Symmonds leveraged his post-race speech to speak out against the 2014 Winter Olympic host’s anti-gay laws.

“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” Symmonds said Aug 13, according to RIA Novosti. “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.”

“I respect Russians’ ability to govern their people. I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules,” Symmonds added.

Prior to competing at the championships, Symmonds had said he is an ally, and registered his opposition to the Russian laws in a blog post in Runner’s World magazine earlier this month. He also said, however, that he would not speak out on the issue while he was competing on Russian soil out of respect for the host country’s laws.

Meanwhile, 2010 Winter Olympics gold medallist, Canadian Jon Montgomery told Global News that while he would support a boycott of the Sochi Games in protest against the laws, he believes the sight of gay athletes in Russia competing and succeeding sends “more of a statement than not going.”

“Like Jesse Owens did in the Berlin Games, he went and he prevailed and he showed that not only can people from the States of African-American descent and black people from the world over compete, but man, they can prevail,” he said.

“We need to do something in 2014 to make sure that the world knows that this isn’t OK, and that we don’t stand by idly and say that this is acceptable,” Montgomery added in reference to the Russian laws.

Natasha Barsotti is originally from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She had high aspirations of representing her country in Olympic Games sprint events, but after a while the firing of the starting gun proved too much for her nerves. So she went off to university instead. Her first professional love has always been journalism. After pursuing a Master of Journalism at UBC , she began freelancing at Xtra West — now Xtra Vancouver — in 2006, becoming a full-time reporter there in 2008.

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