August 19, 2013

MOSCOW — Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Sunday accused western media of overplaying the anti-gay issue that has plagued the World Athletics Championships in Moscow.

However, Mutko insisted the controversial law was not just about homosexuality but also to protect Russian youth from 'drugs, drinking and non-traditional relationships' -- the term used in Russia for same sex relationships).

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in June that punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors. But activists say it can be used for a broader crackdown against gays.

Fears it could be used against participants at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have sparked calls for a boycott of the event in some quarters and Russian officials have said all athletes will have to obey the law at the Games.

However, Mutko - minister of sport since 2008 - reiterated that at the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next February, athletes could conduct themselves as they wished in private.