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Russian Pole-Vaulter Says Misunderstood Over Gays, AP Reports

Pole vault world-record holder Elena Isinbaeva said she was been misunderstood when she condemned protests by fellow athletes against a Russian law banning gay “propaganda,” the Associated Press reported.

“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,” Isinbaeva said in a statement, the AP reported. English is not her first language and she was “misunderstood,” she said.

Isinbaeva yesterday defended the law, which has sparked calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympic Games next year in Russia. Two Swedish athletes competed at the World Championships in Moscow with their fingernails painted in rainbow colors in a sign of protest, AP said.

“If we will allow to promote and do all this stuff on the streets, we are very afraid for our nation,” Isinbaeva, a supporter of President Vladimir Putin, said yesterday in English, the RIA Novosti state news service reported. “We consider ourselves as a traditional people when men live with women. I hope this problem won’t affect the Sochi Games.”

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Aug. 1 that the law will be enforced during the Sochi Games even after the International Olympic Committee said it had received assurances that it wouldn’t be applied against athletes or spectators.

Putin signed a law in July banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The maximum fine for violating the law is 1 million rubles ($30,400), applicable to legal entities. Foreign citizens charged under the law face as long as 15 days in jail and deportation from Russia.

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