IOC suspends protest investigation after star's devastating tragedy

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Raven Saunders, pictured here making an 'X' gesture after winning silver at the Olympics.
Raven Saunders made an 'X' gesture after winning silver at the Olympics. Image: Getty

The IOC has suspended an investigation into American shot put silver medallist Raven Saunders after the tragic death of her mother.

Saunders announced on Wednesday that she will take a break from social media and focus on her mental health following the death of her mother Clarissa.

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Raven tweeted that she will take some time away after losing her "number one guardian angel."

"My mama was a great woman and will forever live through me," she said.

"I will always and forever love you."

Clarissa Saunders had been present at Olympics watch parties in Florida, and was interviewed by CBS about her daughter's achievements on Friday. 

Saunders claimed a silver medal in Tokyo despite tearing her labrum in her hip weeks prior to the Olympic Trials. She also tweaked her Achilles in the preliminary rounds in Tokyo.

Saunders drew more attention to her performance when she raised her arms to make an 'X' on the podium after winning silver.

Shesaid the gesture represented "the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet." Saunders is Black, queer and has talked openly about her battle with depression.

The International Olympic Committee previously said it would look into whether Saunders' gesture violated rules against protests.

But after the news of her mother's death it said it would suspend the inquiry.

"The IOC obviously extends its condolences to Raven and her family," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said on Wednesday. 

"Given these circumstances, the process at the moment is fully suspended."

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which supported Saunder's gesture, thanked the IOC for the pause.

"We appreciate the empathy shown toward Raven by the IOC during this difficult time," the USOPC said in a statement.

Raven Saunders, pictured here after the women's shot put final at Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Raven Saunders celebrates after the women's shot put final at Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (Photo by Li Ming/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Raven Saunders and Chinese cyclists under investigation

The IOC is also investigating two Chinese cyclists who worse pins depicting former Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong on the podium.

Under Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

The IOC loosened the rule three weeks before the Tokyo Olympics to allow for athlete “expressions” that are “not disruptive” and “not targeted, directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organisations and/or their dignity.”

However the IOC reiterated last month that these expressions were not permitted during competition or official ceremonies, including medal ceremonies.

The USOPC are of the belief that Saunders' gesture did not breach the 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."

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