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Russian official: Gay athletes, fans risk arrest during Winter Olympics

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Clive Rose

Last week, the International Olympic Committee said that gay athletes and fans attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi would not be subject to the new anti-gay laws passed in Russia. Not so fast. Today, Russia's sports minister said than anyone "propagandizing" for homosexuality during the Games would be subject to the law.

"No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable," Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport.

The legislation, signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June, levies fines for such offenses from 800,000 rubles ($24,000) to 1 million rubles ($30,500) for legal entities, from 4,000 rubles ($120) to 5,000 rubles ($150) for individuals and from 40,000 rubles ($1,220) to 50,000 rubles ($1,530) for officials.

In addition to the fine, foreigners could be held in detention for up to 15 days before they are deported. Homosexual "propaganda" is a vague term under the new law, but the law bans pride marches and any discussion of homosexuality to minors, including online or in the media.

Openly gay speedskater Blake Skjellerup said he might wear the pride pin that was sold for the 2012 London Summer Games. Under the new law, this might be seen as "propaganda." "If I'm stopped at the border, I'm stopped at the border. My presence there is going to be important for me and important for the community and I guess we're just going to have to wait and see," he told CBS News. Sjjellerup told Outsports in a Podcast that he was still debating what his options were should he qualify for the Olympics.

The sports minister's comments are very disturbing and need a vigorous response from the IOC and Olympic committees worldwide. I am not in favor of a boycott, but would be very nervous were I an openly gay athlete or tourist at the Games.