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2 US Pan Am athletes get 1 year bans for kneeling on podium in protest of the US

Race Imboden of the United States, left, scored a point on a touch against Guilherme Tolodo of Brazil, right, during the round of 32 in men's individual foil at the ExCel centre during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, Tuesday, July 31, 2012. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT)
August 21, 2019

Two U.S. Pan Am Games athletes have received a 12-month probation from the Olympics for staging protests on the podium at the Pan American Games in early August.

The two athletes, hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden, were reprimanded in a letter obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday from the CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) for their protests during the medal ceremonies.

Berry, who raised her fist, and Imboden, who kneeled, were both given 12-months of probation from the CEO, but will still be eligible for the Summer Olympics next year.

The letter served as a warning to other athletes thinking about protesting on the podium, which is against the rules set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“It is also important for me to point out that, going forward, issuing a reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in the letters.

The Pan American Games, which take place every four years the year before the summer Olympics, was held from July 26 to Aug. 11 in Lima, Peru. Before the games, athletes sign a document that states they’re aware of the rules and won’t break them.

“We recognize that we must more clearly define for Team USA athletes what a breach of these rules will mean in the future,” Hirshland wrote. “Working with the (athletes and national governing body councils), we are committed to more explicitly defining what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games.”

While Hirshland said she wanted work with the IOC “to engage on a global discussion on these matters,” and she respected the perspectives of the athletes, she wrote that “we can’t ignore the rules or the reasons they exist.”

In a series of tweets on Aug. 9, after the ceremony, Imboden lambasted President Donald Trump and what he considers the mistreatment of immigrants, among other charges and contemporary issues in the political arena.

“We must call for change. This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home Gold and Bronze. My pride however has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart. Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list. I chose to [sacrifice] my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed. I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change,” he wrote in the tweets.

Like Imboden, much of Berry’s recent Twitter activity is dedicated to political commentary.

According to the AP, she said it was “too important to not say something,” and was protesting social injustice in America.