Words: Will Stroude
Great Britain’s Jack Bristow has welcomed a decision by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) to reverse a ban on rainbow Pride flags at competition events.
The British triathlete, 24, said new rules banning displays of “political, religious, sexual orientation or racial propaganda” had left LGBT athletes “confused and angry”.
The ITU said the rule, which was adopted in November and has now been overturned, had been designed to “protect athletes from demonstrations against them,” but had resulted in a “misunderstanding.”
Bristow, who has represented Great Britain in European age-group championships and carried a rainbow Pride flag over the finish line at the British triathlon championships in Leed last June, praised the body for its swift action.
“Banning the flag ‘for our own good’ is not a good look. We know the risks and it should be our choice,” he told the BBC.
“It wasn’t really an issue beforehand, so I don’t know why they introduced this rule and it seems to have backfired on them.
“But it’s great they have responded so quickly and been prepared to listen to feedback.”
The athlete added: “In the future, we’d like to see the ITU pledge to listen to triathletes from a diverse backgrounds before implanting rules like this so we can avoid unfortunate misunderstandings like this one.”
The ITU said in a statement: “The change in the rule was aimed to protect our athletes and community from demonstrations against them.
“But we understand that the wording of this rule led to misunderstanding, so the Executive Board has decided to amend the rule and leave it as it was before the rules update.”
Bristow, who started a Change petition to see the ban overturned following its introduction, added: “It was a misunderstanding on their part of what the rainbow flag means in this context.
“It’s about LGBT athletes being visibly positive role models in the same way pioneering ethnic and female athletes are.
“You need a symbol like the rainbow flag to highlight it and it’s important that LGBT people have those positive role models in sport because they are incredibly under-represented.
“The ITU can take a lead on this in a way that no other international organisation has yet. There’s a good opportunity for the ITU to have a discussion and come up with a strategy.”