IRELAND’S JAN ROSSITER says athletes “certainly can’t ignore” Russia’s controversial stance on homosexuality at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The country has been widely criticised by western media for its policies on homosexuality, such as the recent legislation outlawing “homosexual propaganda,” while President Vladimir Putin also caused considerable controversy last month, after telling gay people to “leave children alone” at the Olympics.
Rossiter, who is representing Ireland at the Games in cross-country skiing, says these issues are a significant concern. ”Now that I’ve qualified, I’m trying to read more about this issue,” he told TheScore.ie. “It’s a question that’s coming up a lot.”
While acknowledging that no country is perfect, the 26-year-old Cork-born athlete also said that Russia’s current treatment of homosexuals was inexcusable.
“Unfortunately, in the flawed world that we live in, no matter where you put the Games, you’re going to find issues of the host country — certainly not to excuse the inequalities that are occurring in Russia.”
He continued: “I hope, with the added media attention on Russia, some positive things can come out of that.”
Rossiter is not the first Irish athlete to speak out against the country’s attitudes on this matter. In a recent interview with Newstalk, 25-year-old runner Ciarán O’Lionáird expressed support for any potential protests that might occur in Sochi, and added:
“At the end of the day, LGBT rights is the big social issue now. It was race back in the time of John Carlos and it was people who were being discriminated against because of the way they were born, and that’s how I see this. And it’s not fair.”
Meanwhile, commenting on recent rumours of a potential terrorist attack in Sochi, Rossiter said he was trying not to worry about the possibility of such an event occurring.
“It’s impossible not to think about it, as I follow all sorts of news quite closely. But I think, as athletes, we learn to understand the things we can and can’t control. Unfortunately, aside from just keeping my wits about me, these are things that are out of my control, so I’ll be focusing on my race.”
Look out for our full interview with Jan Rossiter coming up tomorrow on the site.