Two Russian runners made headlines after a photograph of them kissing on the podium at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow went viral.
Kseniya Ryzhova and Yulia Guschina shared a kiss after winning a gold medal last Saturday in the 4x400-meter relay. Russia posted a time of 3:20.19 to beat out the United States (3:20.41) and Great Britain (3:22.61).
UPDATE: Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 10:05 a.m. ET
RIA Novosti confirms Ryzhova and Guschina did not kiss during their medal ceremony as a form of protest and passes along statements from Ryzhova:
Russian sprinters Ksenia Ryzhova and Yulia Guschina said Tuesday they are outraged at the reaction to their now-infamous podium kiss at the world athletics championships and denied it was an act of protest against Russia's controversial anti-gay law.
"Yesterday I got calls from probably 20 different media outlets and instead of congratulating us for the gold medal, they decided to insult me and Julia and the entire federation," Ryzhova said at a Moscow press conference. ...
Ryzhova also emphasized to reporters that she and Guschina are both married and have "no personal relationship."
"We’ve trained for eight years in the same group and there’s a really good friendship between us," she said.
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Twitter and other social media platforms immediately exploded with debate over whether or not the kiss was an act of protest against a new law in Russia that bans “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations,” which could effectively end gay rights rallies and be used to punish Russians who support homosexuals.
Jean Paul Zapata of Gay Star News found that the women could technically be prosecuted for this display of affection, as it is expressly forbidden under the homosexual propaganda laws.
Sky News sources claimed that the kiss was just a celebratory gesture and a normal thing for the two. Michael Gold of the Baltimore Sun noted there is another, less controversial photograph of the women kissing after a victory, which can be seen at right.
Justin Klugh of Philly.com, however, believes it was an open protest against Russian law.
Justin Palmer of Reuters reported that Russia’s Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, called the anti-gay issue in Russia an "invented problem":
We don't have a law to ban non-traditional sexual relations. The mass media in the West have focused much more on this law more than they do in Russia…We want to protect our younger generation whose physicality has not been formulated. It is a law striving to protect rights of children—and not intended to deprive anybody of their private life.
It remains to be seen if there will be any further fallout or ramifications stemming from this incident.