Russian Olympic athletes told by Kremlin how to answer 'provocative' questions on Black Lives Matter

·3-min read

The Russian Olympic Committee is instructing its athletes on specifically how to answer "provocative" questions regarding political issues, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and its country's doping scandal, via The Washington Post.

The Russian Vedomosti news outlet reported on Wednesday that athletes will not be allowed to state their opinion and have been given a document with exact instructions on what to say, per the Post. The document's authenticity was confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who told the Russian News Agency, "it will be up to each individual athlete to use it or not." He added that "athletes are not politicians." 

Athletes instructed on how to respond to political questions

Russian athletes prepare to greet President Putin before heading to the Tokyo Olympics. (Sergei Guneyev\TASS via Getty Images)
Russian athletes prepare to greet President Putin before heading to the Tokyo Olympics. (Sergei Guneyev\TASS via Getty Images)

Russian athletes, who will compete under a neutral flag as part of doping sanctions levied by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), have been told how to handle questions on Black Lives Matter and sexual harassment. 

From the Post:

If asked about Black Lives Matter at the Olympics, the Russians have been recommended to respond that views on the movement is an individual’s personal business, but “the Olympics should not become a platform for any actions and gestures,” according to the Vedomosti report.

The guidelines also included a prepared response to a possible question about sexual harassment: “I’ve never encountered this in my career, but I know that this problem exists in many countries,” the athletes are instructed to say.

“Information spreads very quickly and any careless answer, which athletes can be skillfully ‘tricked’ into by specially trained people will then have an extremely negative impact,” the guidelines reportedly read.

If athletes are asked about doping sanctions in their home country, Vedomosti reports they are instructed to answer "that he has nothing to say about this, since he never participated in them, and the sanctions [against Russia for doping] should be commented on by those who introduced them." 

Russian athlete rarely criticize the Kremlin or President Vladimir Putin and are often criticized themselves when they weigh in on issues that aren't directly sports-related. 

Politics at the Olympics 

Politics are ingrained in almost every part of society, and the Olympics are no different. Countries have boycotted certain games in response to host countries, and athletes often speak out against human rights violations they see happening in their own countries or perpetrated by the potential hosts. 

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee loosened its ban on protests and rules against athlete expression at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It clarifies Rule 50 and now allows athletes to protest on the field of play before or after the competition, though they are still not allowed to do so on the medal stand. They can also voice protests after leaving the "call room" or similar area of introduction. And they can still speak out in media availabilities.  

American athletes have criticized the protest ban for years, and in 2020 the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee outlined new rules that allow demonstrations in support of racial and social justice at the country's Olympic trials. 

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