Coach of Russian Olympic gold medal winner blames gay conspiracy for wrestling's possible removal from games

Al Bello

Ugly statements from the coach of a 2012 Olympic gold medalist blaming gays for the potential removal of wrestling from the games reminds that homophobia is still strong in the sports world.

While much of the outcry over wrestling's potential removal from the Olympics has been reasoned concern, there has been a darker, far more negative side to the reaction. Many have reacted with claims of this being another sign of the "pussification" of the world, or other such ignorant statements about some perceived "loss of masculinity."

Unfortunately, Vladimir Uruimagov, coach of 2012 Greco-Roman gold medalist Alan Khugaev and 2004 gold medalist Khasan Baroev, took it a step further, directly blaming "gays" in a sort of conspiracy:

"If they expel wrestling now, that means that gays will soon run the whole world," coach Vladimir Uruimagov said, calling the decision "a blow to masculine origins."

He added: "It turns out this committee is headed by representative of these minorities," clarifying that he meant sexual minorities.

"It is necessary for millions around the world who understand that this is a man’s sport and who understand the need to continue the human race to go out and explain their position to the Olympic Committee," he said. "We should prove and explain that in any other case there is no future."

The story has been picked up by sites such as Daily Kos and Huffington Post. Almost all sites have pointed out that the Olympic Committee's willingness to accept countries which criminalize homosexuality with little to no pushback has led to much criticism from gay rights activists.

Huffington Post explained more about the climate in Russia:

Meanwhile, Russia's anti-gay propaganda bill, which is expected to pass the legislature, may be indicative of the pervasiveness of homophobia in Russia.

Homosexuality was a criminal offense in the Soviet Union

from 1934 until 1993, according to The Moscow Times, resulting in thousands of jail and asylum sentences for members of the LGBT community.

Gay rights advocates have protested the bill, which would ban the "distribution of 'gay propaganda' to minors," the Washington Post reports. However, as the news outlet writes, "opponents fear [it] would make gay pride marches, demonstrations for gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples illegal."

The country is hosting the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which has caused some gay Olympic hopefuls to wonder if they should be concerned, USA Today notes. The Russian Ministry of Justice has already decreed that Sochi will not feature a Pride House the way recent Olympics in Vancouver and London have.

There were 21 openly gay and lesbian athletes (also two coaches and two gay Paralympians) at the 2012 games, up from 11 in Athens and 10 at Beijing. As Jim Buzinski wrote last year at SB Nation "Simple math dictates that there are many more gay and lesbian athletes in London than who are publicly out. With 12,602 athletes set to compete, just 1 percent of them being gay or lesbian would be 126."

Aside from the criminalization of homosexuality in many countries, the prevalence of attitudes such as that of Uruimagov lead to many athletes feeling as though they can't be "out" until well after their careers are over. If ever.

These attitudes have taken a new focus in the sports world with situations such as San Francisco 49er cornerback Chris Culliver saying ahead of the super bowl:

''I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that. got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff ... Can't be ... in the locker room, nah...You've gotta come out 10 years later after that.''

There is, however, some good news as the group Athlete Ally has been in the news lately. The group, which exists to raise awareness, end homophobia in sports and promote a message of inclusiveness, has seen several professional athletes come on board. Most recently was the announcement yesterday that NBA star Kenneth Faried had joined the group, strengthening a quickly growing group:

As an Athlete Ally, Faried joins Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings, Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns, Connor Barwin of the Houston Texans, Australian rugby star David Pocock, Australian Rules Football player Brock McLean and scores of college athletes who have already signed on.

Faried also made news last year with this PSA about his two moms:

Of course, there is also a major milestone approaching with Liz Carmouche set to be the first openly homosexual fighter to compete in the UFC when she challenges for Ronda Rousey's 135 pound title at UFC 157.

So attitudes are slowly changing in the sports world, but, as Uruimagov's statements remind us, they're not changing everywhere and there will probably always be a massive level of ignorance based around perceptions of masculinity in the sports world.

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