Russian Athletes Kiss — or Was It 'Propaganda'?

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com August 18 2013 11:25 AM ET

Two female Russian athletes kissed on the winners podium after taking gold in the World Track and Field Championships being held in Moscow. Now Russian officials will have to decide, was it "gay propaganda," or mere sportsmanship?

Social media and news reports immediately speculated about why Kseniya Ryzhova or Tatyana Firova kissed. Photos show the two kissing and hugging on the track after winning the women's 4x400 relay, but they grabbed attention when kissing from the winners podium. Neither athlete has commented publicly. But the intense scrutiny that Russia is under about its antigay laws has recast what could very well be a simple congratulations.

The world championships might be a preview of the confusion to come if the Olympics go ahead as planned in Sochi, Russia next year.

Swedish high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro at first competed while wearing rainbow-color nail polish and she made clear that it was intended to subtly protest Russia's antigay laws. Green-Tregaro was later told the colors violated her team's code of conduct and in her final appearance on the field, the fingernails were painted a simple red.

Then there was Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva who criticized the nail color choice and defended her country's antigay laws by saying Russians were "very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal." Isinbayeva's comments got added attention because she will be “mayor” of the Olympic village. Later she revised her comments and said they'd been misunderstood because English isn't her first language.

“What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests," she said, according to the Associated Press. "I respect the views of my fellow athletes and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people."

American runner Nick Symmonds spoke out against the law as soon as he crossed the finish line in the 800-meter, taking a silver medal.

"As much as I can speak about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them," he said to R-Sport. "Whether you're gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there's anything I can do to champion the cause, I will, shy of getting arrested."

The world championships are now over. And Russia's sports minister capped the event by comparing being gay with illegal drug use.

Vitaly Mutko defended his country's so-called "gay propaganda" law, which bans any talk about being gay while in the presence of minors. "It is the informational protection of the young generation," he said during a news conference, according to Sky News. "We want to prevent the young generation, whose psyche has not been formulated. We want to protect them against drunkenness, drugs and non-traditional sexual relations. We want them to grow up and when they become adults they have to define what they want."