Great Britain sprinter hits out at the Tokyo Olympics ban on athletes protesting against racial inequality at medal ceremonies

Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain crosses the line to win her Women's 100m Heat during Day Two of the Muller Anniversary Games IAAF Diamond League event at the London Stadium
Dina Asher-Smith. Getty/Bryn Lennon

Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith has hit out at the Tokyo Olympics for banning athletes from protesting at medal ceremonies.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had previously banned any kind of protest at the Games, but it relaxed its rules to allow protests before and after events in July.

Protests during events, medal ceremonies, and at the Olympic Village remain banned, however.

Protests must also not be “targeted, directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organizations and/or their dignity” and cannot be “disruptive.”

“If you were to penalize someone for standing up against racial inequality, how on earth would that go, how on earth are you going to enforce that?” sprinter Asher-Smith told The Guardian.

“Would you revoke someone’s medal for saying racism is wrong? I see protesting and expressing yourself as a fundamental human right.

“When people feel strongly about something, particularly when it’s something that’s so close to your heart – and as a black woman you think about racism – I just think you can’t police people’s voice on that.

“That’s an incredibly difficult thing to do.”

Over 150 athletes, sports organizations, and human rights and social justice experts have now signed an open letter calling on the IOC to lift sanctions on protesting in Tokyo completely.

Among those to sign the letter are Tommie Smith and John Carlos – the black US sprinters who gave the Black Power Salute on the podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Both athletes were expelled from the Games for the gesture.

“We do not believe the changes made reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right nor to racial and social justice in global sports,” said the letter, which has also been signed by the daughter of boxing legend Muhammed Ali, Laila.

“Staying neutral means staying silent, and staying silent means supporting ongoing injustice.”