Yelena Isinbayeva, Russian pole vaulter, denies homophobia after backing anti-LGBT law



Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva smiles on the podium with her gold medal during the medal ceremony for the women's pole vault at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on August 15, 2013.


Kirill Kudryavtsev

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has denied accusations of homophobia after she appeared to come out in support of Russia's recently passed anti-LGBT law Thursday.

Isinbayeva was quoted criticizing fellow athletes for painting their fingernails in rainbow colors in support of gay and lesbian rights.

"If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people,'' Isinbayeva said, in English. "We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.

"Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don't want to have any in the future.'' 

On Friday, however, she issued a written statement clarifying her remarks.

"English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday. What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests," the carefully worded statement said. 

"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."

Isinbayeva won her third title at the track-and-field world championships in Moscow Tuesday.

Two Swedish athletes who competed in the event Thursday painted their fingernails in rainbows, and one posted a picture on Instagram with the hashtags #pride and #moscow2013.

Isinbayeva later condemned the move as disrespectful to Russia.

"It's unrespectful to our country. It's unrespectful to our citizens, because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands," Isinbayeva told reporters. "We have our home and everyone has to respect [it]. When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules."

Russian legislation criminalizes what is deemed homosexual "propaganda," and may mean the prosecution of those discussing gay issues on Facebook or wearing the gay pride flag.

Isinbayeva is considered a legendary Russian pole vaulter, having set 28 world records and won two gold medals at the Olympics in 2004 and 2008.