The head of the Sochi organizing committee disregarded controversy Saturday over a former figure skater who was selected to light the Olympic torch, despite tweeting a racially-charged photo of President Obama.

Dmitriy Chernyshenko argued that his panel’s choice of former Olympian Irina Rodnina – who tweeted a doctored photo last year of Obama and the First Lady staring at a banana – was based solely on Rodnina’s place as a sports hero.

“She is a three-time Olympic champion, one of the most respected in the world of Olympic athletes,” Chernyshenko said, according to reports. “I want to stress that Olympics is not about politics, and any political talks about discussions are inappropriate.”

Rodnina is a member of the Russian parliament and her tweet last September ignited a firestorm of controversy amid already strained relations between Russia and the United States. Although Rodnina quickly deleted the photo, she has refused to apologize, citing her freedom of speech.