Russia may be officially banned from the Olympics this year, but coverage of the Tokyo Games on state-sponsored TV is currently being investigated by the International Olympic Committee.
Two of the country’s most popular television channels have featured a number of hosts and guests speaking disparagingly about openly LGBTQ athletes, using slurs as well as terms such as “perversion,” “abomination,” and “psychopaths” when referring to transgender and queer athletes.
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who’s transgender, as well as British gold medal-winning diver Tom Daley, who’s gay, have been frequent targets of the hateful rhetoric.
An IOC spokesperson said in a statement that, “We have been in contact with our contractual broadcasting partner in Russia in order to get clarity on the situation and to underline the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and we are following up accordingly.”
According to the BBC, early last week the homophobic and transphobic speech came from a member of the Russian parliament named Alexei Zhuravlyov.
The 59-year-old politician was a panelist in “60 minutes,” a talk show that aired on Rossiya 1. He said that he was “disgusted” by gay and transgender people.
“We stand opposed to all this smut and perversion, strongly opposed,” he said, while pointing at Hubbard.
“We stand against this abomination,” he added. He later also used an offensive term to describe gay men.
Spiridon Kilinkarov, a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, said that he doesn’t think that “transgender people have any prospects in Russia, because they love men, while Russian men love women.”
On another state-owned network, Channel One, host Anatoly Kuzichev appeared on the set of “Time Will Tell” last week wearing a wig to mock Hubbard.
He called transgender people “psychopaths” and suggested that they should be treated by psychiatrists.
During an earlier broadcast of the same show, on July 20, another politician, Pyotr Tolstoy, said that western nations were engaging in efforts to “implant their agenda of equal rights, additional rights for LGBT, transgender people and other perverts into the Olympic movement.”
Anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the country has been exacerbated since Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which went into effect in 2013, made it illegal to have public discussions or positive messages about LGBTQ issues.
A “classic example of political homophobia,” as described in a report by the Human Rights Watch, the law “targets vulnerable sexual and gender minorities for political gain.”
It also “exacerbated the hostility LGBT people in Russia have long suffered, and also stifled access to LGBT-inclusive education and support services, with harmful consequences for children,” according to HRW.