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Ciarán ó Lionáird Headshot

Defending Principle 6, Sport as a Human Right

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There is something truly captivating about the crucible of Olympic competition. From growing up as an avid sports fan, to competing in the Olympic Stadium in London two years ago, I couldn't help but be struck with awe and humbled as I contemplated the many steps, small and large, my fellow athletes had taken in their journey to the Olympic stage. The Games provide the opportunity for competitors from all backgrounds, ethnicities, upbringings and world views to come together in mutual appreciation and regard for the efforts of their competitors, ready to tell their own story through the irresistible narration of world-class sporting performance. Growing up, it represented a stage where you not only cheered for your own country but you learned of others too. An arena devoid of political influence it seemed. A simple nod of respect or post-race handshake can transcend religion, race or any other barrier placed between us by society. It is a celebration of humanity. Why then, in this apparent sea of nirvana, are we as athletes choosing to speak out in support of the oppressed LGBT community in Russia? Should we not, as the Greeks did, drop our arms for the duration of the Games in respect to the competition? Are our actions and words reflecting an impingement of our worldview into that apolitical scene the IOC has carefully construed over the course of a century? The answer is found in Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter

"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

The ban on "pro-gay propaganda" by the Russian Government could hypothetically prevent a gay athlete from conveying the details of their particular journey to the Olympic stage. One's sexuality or one's sexual orientation is no doubt a massive part of their life, of their sense of being. To feel incapable of expressing who you truly are, when arriving at a destination you have worked your whole life to get to, is just wrong. I want to celebrate the true journey of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes at the Sochi Games as I do all others. I want to learn and be inspired and these athletes have the right and ability to inspire others and myself. The Russian laws have crossed a line. They are on our territory, as athletes and fans and they are trying to tell us that some stories can't be told. That expressing one's true identity could fall under the category of propaganda. Such an assessment appears to me as not only narrow-minded but dangerous too. It marginalizes certain athletes and acts contrary to the IOC charter. It could also set a precedent capable of being replicated across racial and ethnical planes. As athletes, our solidarity can help prevent this marginalization. We can stand together, appreciating the all-encompassing journey of the LGBT athlete to the Games as we do any other. Perhaps the Russian Government and the people of Russia will see that being born a certain way shouldn't limit one's ability to express oneself. The competitors at this Winter Olympics can be the teachers this time. The eight-year old Ciaran, sitting in front of an old analog TV set, watched the Atlanta Games and saw that everyone stood equal on the starting line in that Olympic Stadium. I hope the youth watching this games see the very same in Sochi, and that it impacts them just as much as it did me.

To promote equality in at the Olympics visit www.principle6.org.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with the Sochi 2014 Olympics. The series is part of our Impact Sports initiative, which examines the intersection of sports and social good. Many of the posts in this series critique the Russian government's draconian anti-LGBT laws, though other topics include climate change and censorship. Read all the posts in the series here.

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