Former rugby player Gareth Thomas has said that “nothing should hold back” gay athletes who want to compete in the Sochi 2014 winter olympics, despite laws in Russia prohibiting the promotion of gay “propaganda.”

In an interview with Sportlobster TV, Thomas said that athletes planning to go to countries such as Qatar and Russia should do so to prove their laws cannot affect them.

He said: “If I was part of a squad going to these countries – I would go there as a gay man and be the best at what I was doing and prove that their laws can not stop me at being the best I can be in my sport.

“Athletes often only have one chance to be the best and they have worked so hard to get there that nothing should hold them back.”

Thomas became rugby’s first openly gay professional player to come out and continue playing in 2009. He said when he came out he realised “people don’t give a sh*t.”

After playing for Cardiff and Bridgend, in 2010 Thomas switched codes from rugby union to Wrexham-based Super League club Crusaders.

He announced his retirement in October 2011.

In September, Thomas also backed Paddy Power’s campaign against homophobia in football, which encouraged professional footballers to wear rainbow laces on their boots.

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.