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Triathlon Union rescinds ban on rainbow flags at races

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The International Triathlon Union has removed “sexual orientation” from a policy banning “propaganda” at events.

Triathlon - European Championships Glasgow 2018: Day Nine Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

UPDATE JAN. 21: The International Triathlon Union has rescinded its policy banning rainbow flags from events. The ITU sent Outsports this statement:

“The Executive Board of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) has decided to immediately change the rule that stated that “Athletes will avoid displaying any kind of demonstration of political, religious, sexual orientation or racial propaganda”, so that “sexual orientation” will be immediately removed.”

The International Triathlon Union in recent months created a policy that has banned rainbow flags from all competitions. When Outsports revealed the new policy last week, it prompted backlash from around the world and inspired triathlete Jack Bristow to start an online petition to get the policy changed (which you can sign here).

Now the ITU is backpedalling, telling Outsports in a statement that it is reconsidering its new ban on rainbow flags.

The ITU’s policy for 2019 says: “Athletes will avoid displaying any kind of demonstration of political, religious, sexual orientation or racial propaganda.”

The addition of “sexual orientation” is new for 2019.

The ITU’s statement, released today, says:

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) is aware of articles published recently suggesting that our institution is banning the rainbow flag at our events, and would like to clarify our position.

The ITU has always stood for equality, inclusion and respect, and would never knowingly take such a decision that would infringe on the rights and freedoms of people to express themselves and banning the display of rainbow flags.

In light of the misunderstanding, ITU will immediately revisit the rule to ensure that individuals’ rights of expression continue to be embraced.

ITU regrets that this interpretation of the updated rules could have affected any person. It was never ITU’s intention that anyone could be hurt by this decision, one that was never intended to be taken against any group of individuals, no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation.

ITU is proud to be an organisation that is absolutely inclusive from its inception, and will continue to be so in the future.

The statement tries to falsely distance its policy from the banning of rainbow flags, calling this a “misunderstanding.” However, it was an ITU spokesperson that directed Outsports to its new policy when asked about the banning of rainbow flags. In addition, British Triathlon stated to its athletes that this ban included rainbow flags.

Of course there is, as everyone knows, no more clear symbol of LGBQ sexual orientation than the rainbow flag.

Regardless, it’s a positive step that the ITU is listening to its athletes and fans and reconsidering whether the rainbow flag is considered “propaganda” that needs to be banned.

You can share your support for allowing triathletes to display the rainbow flag by signing a petition started by elite triathlete Jack Bristow.