Gay Issues

U.S. Olympic Committee Asks Athletes to Comply With Russia’s Anti-Gay Law

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
article imagearticle image

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun agreed with the International Olympic Committee this week and asked American athletes to comply with Russia’s ban on “homosexual propaganda.”

“The athletes are always going into countries with laws different than his or her own country. They’re going to agree with those laws in some ways, they’re going to disagree with those laws in other ways,” Blackmun told Rianovosti in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit. This law is no different.”

Blackmun said the USOC is still waiting for clarification on the law. So far the ban applies to “whose goal is to provoke underage persons to get involved in non-traditional sexual relations” – but just what that includes is anybody's guess.

"We've read the law, there are over 200 national Olympic committees, and it's not workable for each of them to develop its own interpretation and approach with respect to the law, so were looking to the IOC for some leadership in this issue. They have been in discussions with the Russian authorities, so we're awaiting for some clarification from them," Blackmun said.

"Our job, first and foremost, is to make sure that our athletes are prepared to compete and aren't distracted while they're here. We're a sports organization, and we'll leave the diplomacy on the legal issues to the diplomats, and we're not going to get involved."

This week Nick Symmonds, a runner for Team USA, made headlines when he won a silver medal and Moscow and dedicated it to his LGBT friends. Blackmun didn’t support or disparage Symmonds’ gesture.

“I know he feels strongly about this issue as many Americans do, beyond that we really don’t have any comments,” he said. “We encourage our athletes to work within Russian law, and I know Nick is trying to do that as well.”

The Russian Interior Ministry said Monday that its employees “will act in the framework of the Russian law in general and the law protecting children from harmful information in particular during the Olympics as well as during any other time.”

Last week, President Obama condemned the anti-gay law, but also condemned talk of boycotting the Olympics. He believes the best way to show support for the LGBT community is to compete and win.

Obama said he is “looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze.”

Russian officials continue to state that if a person is not violating the extensively vague law, they won’t run into any trouble.

“If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken,” said Alexand Zhukov head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee, on Monday. “People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever.”

Sources: ThinkProgress, NBC Sports, Rianovosti