SOCHI, Russia (AP) — A day after the head of the Sochi organizing committee appeared to contradict IOC President Thomas Bach on the rights of Olympic athletes to freely express themselves at news conferences, organizers issued a back-pedaling statement Thursday "to clarify" their position.
Dmitry Chernyshenko said Wednesday that he didn't think athletes were allowed to speak about non-sporting issues at official Olympic news conferences. On Monday, Bach said athletes would be free to do so.
"The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee would like to clarify comments attributed to Dmitry Chernyshenko yesterday concerning athletes being able to express themselves during press conferences. Sochi 2014 are fully aligned with the position of the International Olympic Committee," the committee said in a statement.
"Mr. Chernyshenko simply meant that athletes are free to express themselves at a press conference - but of course they cannot use a press conference to make a demonstration or protest - similarly, they cannot use any Olympic venue to demonstrate."
Athletes are forbidden from making political demonstrations or gestures on the medal stand and at other venues by the Olympic Charter. But there has been some concern that athletes in Sochi may try to protest against the Russian law banning gay "propaganda" among minors.
The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, has provoked widespread international outrage from critics who believe the legislation discriminates against gays. Putin, however, has promised that athletes and spectators in Sochi will not face any discrimination based on sexual orientation.
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