US Olympic Committee Condemns Russia's Anti-Gay Law But Asks Athletes To Abide By Its Restrictions
The U.S. Olympic Committee is officially condemning Russia's anti-gay laws while simultaneously insisting that all U.S. Olympians competing at Sochi adhere to them. The AP reports:
On Friday, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) denounced a Russian law that criminalizes public support for gay rights as “inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements” — but asked that athletes abide by it anyway.
“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,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun told Russia’s R-Sport. “It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit. This law is no different.”
BuzzFeed reports that the denunciation from the USOC came after Blackmun's remarks raised some question as to where the USOC officially stood on the "gay propaganda" laws, prompting USOC communications chief Patrick Sandusky to issue a condemnation via Twitter.
Earlier in the week, in a letter dated August 12, Blackmun wrote to the "U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Family" of the IOC's support for LGBT rights while tempering that sentiment with a focus on competition and sport:
"We strongly support equal rights for all and believe that laws restricting the right to act and speak in support of the LGBT community are inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements. We have shared our views with the IOC. At the same time, however, we cannot forget that we are first and foremost a sports organization. Our mission is to help enable American athletes to win medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Neither Blackmun nor Sandusky discussed what action, if any, the USOC would take should an American Olympian willfully violate Russia's anti-gay laws in a show of solidarity with LGBT rights during the Sochi games. Refering to U.S. mid-distance runner Nick Symmonds who this week dedicated his silver medal from the World Athletic Championships in Moscow to his LGBT friends, the AP notes that Blackmun did make a brief if diplomatic statement:
“I know he feels strongly about this issue as many Americans do, beyond that we really don’t have any comments...We encourage our athletes to work within Russian law, and I know Nick is trying to do that as well.”
The timing of those games, just months before the Sochi games, combined with the controversy surrounding Yelena Isinbayeva's recent remarks, has created quite the headache for an exasperated IOC, according to AFP:
The controversy over the anti-gay law has stubbornly refused to go away before and during the World Athletics Championships with one senior IOC member cursing the government for their timing.
"Why on earth didn't the government wait till after the Sochi Olympics. It's created a right old mess," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.