Raven Saunders didn’t break rules with Olympic protest: US officials

The Olympic medalist who made a symbol of protest with her arms during a medaling ceremony didn’t break any rules according to US officials — but she could still face punishment from the International Olympic Committee.

Star shot putter Raven Saunders said the “X” formation she made overhead Sunday after winning the silver medal was meant to honor oppressed people “all over the world” and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced Monday it didn’t break any rules.

“As with all delegations, Team USA is governed by the Olympic Charter and rules set forth by the IOC for Tokyo 2020,” the USOPC said in a statement.

“Per the USOPC’s delegation terms, the USOPC conducted its own review and determined that Raven Saunders’ peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice that happened at the conclusion of the ceremony was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.”

The International Olympic Committee is looking into the matter of shot put Olympian Raven Saunders symbol of protest.
The International Olympic Committee is looking into the matter of shot put medalist Raven Saunders’ symbol of protest.
AP/Francisco Seco

The USOPC noted Saunders performed the demonstration during a brief window on the podium typically reserved for photographs that came after the athletes received their medals and the playing of the Chinese national anthem for gold medalist Gong Lijiao.

The group said they are in touch with World Athletics, track and field’s international federation, and the IOC, which told USA Today in an email they are “looking into” the USOPC’s statement.

“We are not surprisingly looking into the matter, and will consider our next steps. We need to fully establish what’s going on and then take a decision from there,” IOC chief spokesperson Mark Adams said.

USA's Raven Saunders competes in the Women's Shot Put Final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on August 1, 2021.
USA’s Raven Saunders competes in the women’s shot put final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on August 1, 2021.
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
Raven Saunders of Team United States reacts after winning the silver medal in the Women's Shot Put Final on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Raven Saunders of Team United States celebrates after winning the silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
David Ramos/Getty Images

The IOC has long banned forms of protests during the Games and while they did relax the rules last month to allow demonstrations on the field as long as they aren’t disruptive or disrespectful to fellow competitors, they’re still not allowed on the podium during medaling ceremonies.


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Saunders could still face sanctions for the protest because it was done on the podium and appeared to reference the threat in a tweet late Sunday.

“Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim,” she wrote with a laughing emoji.

Raven Saunders poses with Chinese gold medalist, Lijiao Gong (center) and Team New Zealand bronze medalist, Valerie Adams (right).
Raven Saunders poses with Chinese gold medalist, Lijiao Gong (center) and Team New Zealand bronze medalist, Valerie Adams (right).
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The Charleston, South Carolina native has previously suffered from mental health issues and following her Sunday win, said she hopes she can continue to inspire others.

“For everything I’ve been through mental health-wise, injuries, you know, everything like that … being able to really invest everything I’ve had mentally and physically and to be able to walk away with a medal, and be able to go out here and really inspire so many people … I really just hope that I can continue to inspire and motivate,” she said.

With Post wires

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