Thierry Essamba (Pic: Facebook)
Cameroonian athletics star Thierry Essamba has reportedly been expelled from the national team and evicted from his family home over suspicion that he is gay.
Erasing 76 Crimes has been following the ongoing homophobic ordeal suffered by Essamba, 29, over the last few months.
An unnamed LGBT activist wrote for the site that the athlete, who has competed internationally in the 110-meter hurdles and won a gold medal in the 2013 Central African Championships, was suspended by the Cameroon Athletics Federation in May.
The reason? Because he was the subject of ongoing rumours about his sexuality, reportedly spread by a coach.
To make matters worse, Essamba’s suspension was humiliatingly announced during a competition at a stadium in Yaoundé in front of around a thousand spectators and officials.
He is no longer allowed to compete with his team or in any event organised by the federation.
“Increasingly I feel that the sky is falling on me, that everything is closing in on me,” he was quoted as saying.
With his career already in ruins, matters have only deteriorated. On 28 August, Essamba was thrown out of his family home in Yaoundé by his brother.
While a friend was visiting to offer him support at the home, his brother told the two to get out and “Go do your dirt elsewhere,” as neighbours watched on.
Essamba’s mother has supported his brother’s actions and he is now temporarily staying with a female friend and facing an increasingly bleak future.
Same-sex sexual acts are illegal in Cameroon, with penalties of up to five years imprisonment. The country is said to have the highest rate of conviction of LGBT people in the world.
In February it was reported that there were at least 20 people languishing in prison in Cameroon on homosexuality charges.
A number of African sports-people who are gay or perceived to be gay have faced appalling instances of homophobia in the past.
In March last year, it was reported that the head of the Nigerian Women’s Football League had formally barred lesbian players from taking part in the sport.
In June 2011, ahead of the Women’s World Cup in Germany, it was claimed that rumours of lesbianism had led to some players being thrown out of the Nigerian national women’s soccer team, the Super Falcons.