Shot Putter’s Gesture Renews Controversy over Podium Protests at Tokyo Games

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The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has a different set of rules and has said it will no longer punish athletes who exercise their free speech rights, so long as they are not expressing hate.

Saunders could face a wide range of punishments, everything from a reprimand to having her medals stripped and being barred from future competitions. But it is not clear what will happen because the I.O.C. has declined to detail penalties for violations.

Minutes after Saunders’s demonstration, Mark Adams, the chief spokesman for the I.O.C., said the initial decision rests with the athlete’s national Olympic committee, because under the process those organizations are responsible for policing athlete behavior.

Jon Mason, a spokesman for the United States Olympic committee, initially said Sunday night that the organization was reviewing the gestures, but then said that the I.O.C. would be taking the lead. He said American officials had been informed that the I.O.C. would be addressing the matter at its next daily news briefing, on Monday morning.

The wide gap between the I.O.C. leaders and their counterparts in the United States on the issue became public in June 2020 when Casey Wasserman, the leader of the organizing committee for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, urged the I.O.C. president, Thomas Bach, to end the organization’s ban on political demonstrations at the Games.

Then, in December, American Olympic officials announced they would not punish American athletes who spoke out during the Games, so long as they did not express hatred toward or attack any person or group.

The United States has taken the position that it won’t punish or reprimand athletes who make political statements, regardless of what punishment the I.O.C. decides to mete out. National Olympic committees and international sports federations can suspend athletes from competition, and as signatories to the Olympic Charter, they theoretically have to carry out a punishment demanded by the I.O.C.

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