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Isinbayeva slammed for anti-gay comments

ESPN staff
August 16, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Isinbayeva backs Russian anti-gay legislation

Newly-crowned pole vault world champion Yelena Isinbayeva has come under widespread attack for her comments condemning homosexuality with calls for her to be stripped of her as an ambassador for the Youth Olympics.

Isinbayeva supported recent Russian anti-gay legislation and criticised fellow competitors who painted their fingernails in rainbow colours to support gays and lesbians.

"If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people,'' Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, said in English. "We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys. Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don't want to have any in the future.''

At least two Swedish athletes competed at the Luzhniki Stadium, the same venue that hosted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, with their fingernails painted different colours.

Emma Green Tregaro was one athlete who painted her nails in rainbow colours to draw attention to the issues in Russia. The IAAF, the sport's governing body, said both opinions should be respected.

But Isinbayeva said it was wrong for anyone to make such a statement while competing in Russia.

"It's unrespectful to our country. It's unrespectful to our citizens, because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands. We have our home and everyone has to respect [it]. When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules.''

Commonwealth heptathlon gold medallist Louise Hazel said Isinbayeva's stance meant her ambassadorial role needed reviewing. "They should definitely be revising her position as an ambassador," she said. "That just seems ridiculous to me. Essentially she's being outwardly homophobic."

On the BBC Denise Lewis says Isinbayeva was "not in touch with the rest of the world", while Michael Johnson said she had "very flawed judgement".

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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