Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has slammed the International Olympic Committee for “putting their head in the sand” over LGBT rights.

Speaking at a United Nations event on Tuesday, she accused the IOC not taking a stand against Russia, which is hosting February’s Winter Olympics and passed a law banning “gay propaganda” in June.

“I think we can say that sports and politics are inextricably combined – they go hand in hand – and that’s where my disappointment was with the IOC,” said Navratilova.

“It said sports and politics don’t mix, which is completely contrary to everything that’s been happening.

“So that’s where my disappointment is, more than with anybody else, with the IOC for really putting their head in the sand and not wanting to make any waves.”

Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slams during her tennis career, also criticised football’s world governing body FIFA for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, where same-sex sexual activity is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.

“In Qatar, for example, where the World Cup is going to be, homosexual activity is punishable by jail terms,” she said.

Also attending the UN event was gay NBA player Jason Collins.

“I don’t know how much the IOC can do in pushing the Russian Government to end their gay propaganda laws, but they can definitely do more,” he said.

“People should be able to live their lives openly, should be encouraged to be themselves.

“The IOC and FIFA should look when they are selecting a city or country to host at whom they choose to associate their brand with, is it a government that would openly oppress their own people?”

IOC President Thomas Bach has warned athletes against making political gestures at the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, but plans to set up protest zones for them to “express their views”.