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Wed August 14, 2013
In Moscow, American Runner Dedicates His Medal To Gay Friends
The two-time U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds won the silver medal in the 800 meter race, yesterday, in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow.
That wasn't the news, however. Instead, the news became Symmonds' dedication of his medal to his gay and lesbian friends.
The official state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the middle distance runner became the first athlete "to openly criticize Russia's controversial anti-gay law on the country's soil."
"As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them," RIA Novosti quotes Symmonds as saying. "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."
Russia has been getting a lot of criticism after it passed laws criminalizing "homosexual propaganda." Russia is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics and some have called for the U.S. to boycott the games.
President Obama weighed in during his press conference on Friday, saying he didn't think boycotting the games was appropriate.
"We've got a bunch of Americans that are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed," he said. "Nobody's more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we've been seeing in Russia."
Symmonds spoke to ABC News after his run. He told the network he was walking a fine line. He said he wanted to don a rainbow flag pin during his runs, but the Russian government made it clear that would land him in jail.
"I'm trying to tread that fine line of being respectful as a guest in this country and also speaking against some serious injustices that I see," he said. "As adamant as I am about this issue, I don't know what me sitting in jail is good for."
Symmonds took that same measured tone in a column for Runner's World earlier this month. He wrote:
"I will say now what I said before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, when people asked me how I felt competing in a foreign country with questionable human rights standards: The playing field is not a place for politics. In a world rife with never-ending political battles, let the playing field be where we set aside our differences and compete for national pride and the love of sport.
"If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country's generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union."