Russian podium kiss sparks debate

Gold medalist Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova of Russia kiss on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x400 metres Relay during Day Eight of the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 at Luzhniki Stadium on August 17, 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Was it an affectionate celebration or a blatant defiance of Russian law?

It remains unclear whether a kiss shared by Russian athletes Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova at the World Athletics Championships over the weekend was celebratory or a protest over Russia’s controversial anti-gay law.

The kiss was caught on camera Sunday after Russia won gold in the women’s 4X400 metre relay.

The public display of affection appears to violate a Russian law, recently passed in June, that bans anyone from spreading gay and lesbian “propaganda.”

Media around the world has begun speculating about the possible motive behind the athletes’ kiss.

READ MORE: George Takei speaks to Global News about Sochi Olympics petition

Sky News is reporting that sources in the Russian camp say the athletes were simply exchanging a congratulatory kiss and there was no political message.

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Other media organizations like Pink News and The Huffington Post are characterizing the kiss as a protest against the anti-gay law.

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Athletes at the track and field championships have had to compete not just with each other, but with growing controversy over Russia’s controversial law.

On Saturday, Russian gold medal pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva criticized Swedish high jumper Emma Gren Tregaro who painted her nails in rainbow colours in support of LGBT rights.

“It’s disrespectful to our country, disrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians,” she said. “Maybe we are different than European people and people from different lands.”

Watch: Russian pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva supports Russian anti-gay law

READ MORE: Russian sports minister says gay ‘propaganda’ law won’t infringe on Sochi Olympics

Isinbayeva’s comments drew a quick and severe backlash from both sports analysts and athletes.

BBC Sport’s Denise Lewis said isinbayeva was  “not in touch with the rest of the world.”

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Isinbayeva attempted to clarify her stance on the controversy in a statement released by the International Associations of Athletics Federations (IAAF) saying that she had been misunderstood.

“What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests,” Isinbayeva said. “But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality [which is against the Olympic charter].”

Watch: Athletes and activists react to Russian pole vaulter’s comments on Russia’s anti-gay law

Russia’s anti-gay law has sparked international criticism, with many people calling for a boycott of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

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