Olympic Police Reportedly Briefly Detained Italian Gay Rights Activist in Sochi

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2014

Italian transgender and former communist lawmaker Vladimir Luxuria mimics a hanging, outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during a candle-lit demonstration for gay rights, in Rome, Saturday Dec. 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Updates from Tuesday, Feb. 18

ESPN.com's Staff (via the Associated Press) provides a statement from IOC spokesman Mark Adams discussing the incident:

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Tuesday that "what happened yesterday is still a little bit unclear" but said Luxuria had set out to demonstrate at the stadium.

"I know her stated aim to demonstrate in the venue and I believe after a couple of hours when she finally got to the venue I think she was escorted from there peacefully, not detained," Adams said.

He said Olympic Park and the venues are not the right place for demonstrations, and added: "We would ask anyone to make their case somewhere else."

Original Text

Mixed reports have emerged regarding the alleged arrest of gay-rights activist and former Italian parliamentary figure Vladimir Luxuria at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Nataliya Vasilyeva of the Associated Press reported (via the Press of Atlantic City) on Monday morning, saying that the former Communist lawmaker had been detained "for several hours" as punishment for holding a rainbow flag bearing the words "Gay is OK" in Russian.

However, the BBC's Richard Conway, covering the Winter Olympics in Sochi, tweeted to say that Sochi 2014 organisers have no record of the incident:

Per the Associated Press' report, Sochi organising committee spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina noted: "We've talked to police and they have told us there is no record whatsoever to any detention or arrest." 

Transgender Luxuria tweeted on Sunday with a message that would have been posted prior to her apparent detention:

The post reads: "I'm in Sochi. Greetings in the colors of the rainbow, in Putin's face," per an AP report via USA Today.

Russia's attitude toward homosexuality is a topic of discussion that has risen of late, with the arrival of an event as far-reaching as the Winter Olympics putting a considerable microscope on the matter.

On Sunday, Faith Karimi and Neda Farshbaf of CNN reported that pop singer Rihanna was the latest to throw in her support for gay rights, posting an image of herself wearing a hat with "P6" tagged at the front via her Instagram:

The term stands for Principle 6, standing against the strict propaganda laws that exist in Russia.

Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

The Sochi Games also drew attention when gay activists spiked protests in the build-up to the event, per BBC News, with cities around the world seeing numbers rally against some of Russia's views on the subject.

Luxuria's supposed arrest could be viewed as a sour turn on the matter itself, although there is some doubt as to how valid the claims are just yet.