Athletes at the Sochi Winter Olympics next month may be punished for making statements on the podium against Russia's anti-gay law or human rights record, but the IOC says they can do so at news conferences without fear of sanction.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said on Monday that under the Games charter political protests and demonstrations at venues are not allowed.
"It is very clear the Games cannot be used as a stage for political demonstrations however good the cause may be," he said.
"The IOC will take, if necessary, individual decisions based on individual cases. It is also clear on the other hand the athletes enjoy freedom of speech so if in a press conference they wanted to make a political statement they are absolutely free to do so."
Asked whether he was urging athletes to make their point at news conferences rather than the medals podium, Mr Bach said: "If you are drawing this conclusion I would not say anything against it".
Russia last year passed an anti-gay propaganda law that critics say curbs the rights of homosexuals.
President Vladimir Putin has said homosexuals will not be discriminated against during the Games, but many athletes have said they will make their opposition known during the Olympics. The Games are from 7 - 23 February.