Dina Asher-Smith believes any ban on demonstrating at the Olympics would have embarrassed the International Olympic Committee and insisted that athletes have the right to speak out.
Team GB’s biggest medal hopeful on the track hailed the IOC’s decision to allow competitor events at the Tokyo Games, which officially begins on Friday.
Earlier this month, the IOC rescinded its Rule 50 restrictions, which state that “no kind of political, religious or racial demonstration or propaganda is allowed at any Olympic venues, venues or other areas.”
Athletes will now be allowed to protest before the start of the competition, but not on the podium. Gestures will be permitted “after leaving the call room (or similar area) or during the presentation of the individual athlete or team”.
Asher-Smith stopped before saying she would take the knee, but still thought the IOC would turn around.
She said: “I consider protesting and speaking out to be a basic human right. If you were to penalize someone for speaking out against racial inequality, how would that be? How the hell are you going to enforce respect? that?
“Do you want to revoke someone’s medal for saying racism is bad?” But I think it’s good that they lifted it. How would you control that, especially when people are feeling it so strongly right now?
“Also, if you were to penalize someone or revoke a medal, how would that be optically?
“I saw it as totally unenforceable and I think they had no choice but to lift it, otherwise they would have faced a lot of protests from athletes at the Games and it would have been very embarrassing for them. .
“Unless they mean to say they’re against people who are against racism, I didn’t see how it was going to turn out.
“Some of the most iconic moments of the Olympics were the salute to black power, by Tommie Smith (in 1968). It’s something people remember from the Olympics, something they are very proud to see. at the Olympic games.
“So to think that they’re going to suddenly get up and say ‘absolutely not’, I think they would shoot themselves in the foot.”
Asher-Smith kicks off his race to glory on July 30, the first morning of athletics, in the 100m heats, with the semi-final and final the following day.
She will also compete in the 200m, with the final on August 3, as she looks to add to her 200m world title.
Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce remains the favorite to regain the 100m crown she won in 2008 and 2012.
American Sha’Carri Richardson was set to fight for gold, but was left out of the squad, despite her one-month ban after testing positive for marijuana, expiring next week.
She said the stress of her mother’s recent death, combined with the pressure to prepare for the trials – which she won with the sixth-fastest time in 100m history – led her to use the drug, leaving Asher-Smith sympathetic.
She said, “I’m sorry for her because her mother passed away. I was thinking about it. I even said to my mother,” If you passed away, I wouldn’t have done the tests. My mother did said, “Don don’t be stupid, I still want you to.
“I absolutely cannot tell someone how to grieve, I don’t think anyone does. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind and that’s why you feel sorry for her because she is in mourning.
“The rules are the rules, but the girl was in mourning so my heart goes out to her in this situation. Nobody wants to lose a parent. It’s awful.”
Educators, activists and athletes sign letter urging IOC to allow protests
Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Gwen Berry are among more than 150 athletes, educators and activists who signed a letter on Thursday urging the IOC not to punish participants who demonstrate at the Tokyo Games.
The five-page letter, published on the eve of the Olympics, asks the IOC not to sanction athletes who kneel or raise their fists, as Smith and Carlos did at the 1968 Games in Mexico City.
Berry, the American hammer thrower who sparked much of this debate, has said she intends to use her Olympic platform to highlight racial inequalities in the United States. She turned away from the flag when the national anthem was played while in the medal gallery at the Olympic trials last month.
“We do not believe that the changes made reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right or to racial and social justice in world sport,” said the letter, which was posted on the website. from the Muhammad Ali Center and also signed Ali’s daughter, Laila Ali, quadruple world boxing champion.
The letter challenged the IOC’s long-held position that the Olympics should remain neutral, arguing that neutrality is never neutral.