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Russia’s latest LGBTQ outrage should mean zero Russian athletes at the 2024 Olympics

LGBTQ activism has been effectively outlawed, a clear violation of the Olympic Charter.

This hashtag supporting LGBTQ rights in Russia is displayed in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin in 2018.
This hashtag supporting LGBTQ rights in Russia is displayed in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin in 2018.
Photo by Christian Marquardt/Getty Images

After Russia’s latest attack on LGBTQ rights, it’s clear that the International Olympic Committee should live up to its charter and ban athletes from Russia competing at the 2024 Olympics. And that’s not even taking into account Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

From AP:

Russia’s Supreme Court effectively outlawed LGBTQ+ activism on Thursday, the most drastic step against advocates of gay, lesbian and transgender rights in the increasingly conservative country.

Ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Ministry, the court labeled what the suit called the LGBTQ+ “movement” operating in Russia as an extremist organization and banned it. ...

Multiple rights activists have noted the lawsuit was lodged against a movement that is not an official entity, and that under its broad and vague definition, Russian authorities could crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of it.

Just a day after the ruling, LGBTQ clubs were raided by police.

Russian security forces raided gay clubs and bars across Moscow Friday night, less than 48 hours after the country’s top court banned what it called the “global LGBTQ+ movement” as an extremist organization.

Police searched venues across the Russian capital, including a nightclub, a male sauna, and a bar that hosted LGBTQ+ parties, under the pretext of a drug raid, local media reported.

Eyewitnesses told journalists that clubgoers’ documents were checked and photographed by the security services. They also said that managers had been able to warn patrons before police arrived.

This is the latest in Russia’s nearly decade-long crackdown on LGBTQ people, whom President Vladimir Putin sees as a decadent scourge imported from the West. And the raids are clearly designed to instill fear and panic, a point made by Sergei Troshin, an openly gay municipal deputy in St. Petersburg, talking with the BBC.

“I think this will mean that anyone whom the state considers an LGBT activist could receive a long prison sentence for ‘participating in an extremist organization’,” he said. “This is real repression. There is panic in Russia’s LGBT community. People are emigrating urgently. The actual word we’re using is ‘evacuation.’

“We’re having to evacuate from our own country. It’s terrible.”

This new attack that basically strips LGBTQ people of their rights is another reason why athletes from Russia should be banned from the Paris Olympics next summer. It’s a clear violation of Article 6 of the Olympic Charter, amended to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination clause.

Russia and neighboring Belarus are already banned from sending official teams to the Paris 2024 Olympics because of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ material support for the war, a stance the IOC reaffirmed in October.

But the IOC is still allowing athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete under a neutral flag as long as they have not participated in or supported the war.

Yet this ignores that fact that Russia’s military is actively involved in producing sports stars. A review by The Associated Press found that 45 of 71 medals won by Russians at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics were part of the largest military sports clubs.

Ukraine and the U.S. are among countries wanting Russian athletes banned, since the country is still able to tout the success of “neutral” athletes to bolster national pride.

The legal ruling condemning LGBTQ people to threatened marginalized status, and the subsequent raid of LGBTQ spaces, should only make the case for a total ban of all athletes stronger.