HONG KONG (Reuters) – Swimming’s world governing body FINA said athletes will be allowed to express their opinions at news conferences and via media channels at the Tokyo Olympics but protests during medal ceremonies are prohibited.
Podium protests have emerged as a controversial issue ahead of the Games with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) deciding to retain a regulation forbidding any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in venues and other Olympic areas.
That has prompted criticism from some athletes, including Britain’s Olympic swimming champion Adam Peaty, who said they have a right to express their opinions without being punished.
FINA’s latest guidelines were issued just two weeks ahead of the start of the Games following discussions with the IOC, the swimming federation said in a news release on Wednesday.
The pool deck should remain a sanctity for sport and nothing else, said FINA President Husain Al Musallam, adding that the same level of respect should be given to the podium.
“It is a moment that commands respect and triumph for sporting results and should not be remembered by individual expression,” he said.
FINA’s guidelines come around two years after it warned Britain’s Duncan Scott over his refusal to share a podium or shake the hand of China’s Sun Yang at the 2019 world championships because of a doping controversy.
Australian Mack Horton had also refused to share the podium with Sun after the Chinese swimmer won the 400 metres freestyle at the same event held in Gwangju, South Korea.
World and Olympic champion Sun’s hopes of competing in Tokyo ended last month when the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced his ban for doping violations to four years from eight.
The shorter sentence means Sun will be eligible for the Paris Games in 2024 when he will be 32-years-old.
(Reporting by Farah Master;Editing by Peter Rutherford)