Dina Asher-Smith defends Tokyo Olympics protests: ‘You can’t police a human right’

·3-min read

Olympics bosses have saved their blushes by softening their stance on athletes taking the knee at the Tokyo Games, according to Dina Asher-Smith.

Protests have been banned on the podium during the Games but the IOC has since performed a partial U-turn to allow athletes to take the knee on the field of play.

Britain’s women footballers did so along with their opposition China before their opening match on Wednesday.

And Asher-Smith said: “I see protesting and expressing yourself as a fundamental human right. If you were to penalise someone for standing up against racial inequality how on earth would that go, how on earth are you going to enforce that? Would you revoke someone’s medal for saying racism is wrong?

“If you were to penalise someone or revoke a medal how would that go optically? I think they had no choice but to lift it otherwise they would have been faced with loads of athlete protests at the Games and it would have been very embarrassing for them.

“When it comes to people’s voices, there’s very little you can control. When people feel strongly about something, particularly when it’s something so close to your heart – particularly for me that topic would be racism, as a black woman you think about racism – I just think you can’t police people’s voice on that.”

Asher-Smith also paid tribute to England’s footballers during the Euros for continuing to take the knee throughout the tournament and public criticised the racism that Bukayo Sako, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho took following the penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

“I think what Marcus and all the other players have been doing is fantastic,” she said. “It made me so proud to watch them and see how they conducted themselves. They are a credit to our nation and showing a really good moral leadership for our nation. As a black Brit, I was really proud through the Euros.”

Asher-Smith has increasingly become a role thanks to her success on the track, topped by her world title win in the 200metres at the last World Championships in Doha in 2019.

And she is spurred on to Olympic sprint success by inspiring a new generation of women to get into sport.

“The next fortnight has a great potential to inspire an entire generation of young women as we do when we see every Olympics,” she said. “But it’s becoming increasingly important more and more nowadays.”

Asher-Smith allayed fears over her fitness, saying she was clear of the slight hamstring issue that forced her out of her most recent race in Gateshead. And she has set her sights on a series of British records throughout the Games, which will most likely be needed to take home gold in the 100 and 200metres.

She is ranked ninth in the world on times in both sprint event but dismissed the times as irrelevant on the eve of the Games.

“It’s all well and good that you can run fast throughout the year – fantastic, congratulations,” she said. “But it’s obviously the big moments that matter. That’s one of my favourite places to perform.

“A championship is a completely different ball game. The reason why we all love championships is because you honestly don’t know what’s going to happen. Everybody has their predictions written down on paper but we don’t run on paper, we run on the track. People always run fast, that’s the sport but it’s the championships that really matter.”

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