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US Olympic Committee Condemns Russia's Anti-Gay Law But Asks Athletes To Abide By Its Restrictions

SochiThe 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.

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  1. It's seriously time we get off this whole Russia kick. Russia is going to do what Russia is going to do. We aren't Russia. Move on....

    Posted by: wheelie81 | Aug 16, 2013 4:50:08 PM

  2. "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.

    To get in the heads of the athletes so Russia can, Win The Podium.

    Posted by: Edd | Aug 16, 2013 4:51:59 PM

  3. Amazing.

    Truly amazing.

    The IOC is not mad at the Russian government about the persecution of LGBTQ people.

    He is at mad the Russian government for its timing and how it disrupts his personal fiedfdom.

    What a worthless bastard POS.

    Posted by: Continuum | Aug 16, 2013 4:54:44 PM

  4. this argument is simply a distraction from the real issue, and an attempt to redirect the discussion away from the matters at hand - basic, human rights, and state sanctioned discrimination. rights guaranteed by the olympic charter, and discrimation in violation of that same charter. and it won't work.

    Posted by: northalabama | Aug 16, 2013 4:54:50 PM

  5. The USOC is making the smart choice. The Russian people have come together to affirm and stand up for their values. The IOC and USOC respect those choices, as they should. Perhaps if Liberals respected the morals of others, laws like this wouldn't be on the books.

    By constantly flaunting effeminacy and stereotypes that deny our natural masculinity. we push our straight peers to fight against us. That's what has happened in the Russia and will soon happen in the US. Just as we seem from female Russian politicians, we have enraged powerful women who resent patriarchy.

    Posted by: Rick | Aug 16, 2013 4:55:05 PM

  6. "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.

    That's like asking why Hitler didn't wait to start his anti-Semitic campaign until after the Olympics because it was inconvenient for the Olympic Committee. It totally ignores the inconvenience it did to those who were Jewish, Gay, or mentally disabled under the Nazis and this statement totally ignores the "inconvenience" the laws will do to the LGBT people and their allies in Russia.

    Posted by: Jack | Aug 16, 2013 5:00:49 PM

  7. As Harvey Fierstein said on MSNBC recently, this isn't about the Olympics, it's about people's lives.

    Fierstein added, “You cannot just ignore evil. When evil shows its face you have to answer.”

    Some people of power just don't get that, yet.

    Posted by: Jack | Aug 16, 2013 5:06:49 PM

  8. Clearly nothing is going to happen here. The Olympics will go on as planned, with the same sponsors and the same coverage. The world just doesn't care enough about the real harm that Russia is causing. It is sad but it is an unfortunate reality.

    Posted by: C.J. | Aug 16, 2013 5:10:11 PM

  9. Quislings all.

    Posted by: Mastik8 | Aug 16, 2013 5:23:12 PM

  10. Rick--there is NO such thing as "natural masculinity". Its a learned behavior. we are socialized to equate appearance, mannerisms, etc as being masculine or fem. And this is America--if you dont like fem guys then either get over it or MOVE to Russia!

    Posted by: Chicklets | Aug 16, 2013 5:48:05 PM

  11. Th US Olympic Committee is a bunch of cowards.

    Posted by: Brian | Aug 16, 2013 5:49:04 PM

  12. Whether it's doping (or the related feigning shock and dismay about doping), bias in judging, incomprehensible scoring systems, and the total absence of ethics, I think this drives home the idea that sports has nothing to do with role models and leadership, and everything to do with nationalism and commercialism.

    Posted by: Randy | Aug 16, 2013 5:57:25 PM

  13. Real americans don't obey obnoxious foreign laws. Get with the program Russia, or we will nuke you back to the stone age.

    Posted by: Kev C | Aug 16, 2013 6:02:44 PM

  14. The best and only thing the world can do is to boycott. And you're going to see the call of a boycott grow even louder. If American athletes are so self-centered as to allow another country to openly and hatefully discriminate against their own children, brothers and sisters then they should be called out and publicly shamed. Louganis, Amaechi, Rogers, Weir, and all the rest are in it for themselves.

    Strip the Russians and their sponsors from making money off the Olympics by keeping your money in your pocket and they lose not only billions of dollars but they lose world prestige and they are humiliated globally. If you think for one minute that showing up and "wiinning a medal" is going to kick them in their ass you are a self-centered idiot.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Aug 16, 2013 6:07:09 PM

  15. Kev C, you are on to something, me ruining nukes. This whole Russia issue is hard to separate from their nukes. :-/ I don't trust brutal, babyish, tyrant Putin.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Aug 16, 2013 6:27:26 PM

  16. Kev C, you are on to something, me ruining nukes. This whole Russia issue is hard to separate from their nukes. :-/ I don't trust brutal, babyish, tyrant Putin.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Aug 16, 2013 6:27:26 PM

  17. Da&n autocorrect. I meant re the nukes...

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Aug 16, 2013 6:28:07 PM

  18. Rick never fails to live up to his idiot reputation.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Aug 16, 2013 6:41:58 PM

  19. Instead of asking the USIOC what they will do if an American knowingly breaks the law in Russia, why don't you ask John Kerry or Barack Obama? They'll probably say, "Don't break the law." I bet Hillary Clinton will give you the same response.

    The U.S. Department of State already advises LGBT Americans that "you are subject to the laws and the judicial process of the country you’re visiting," which is just a diplomatic way of saying, "Obey the law or suffer the consequences." After all, we expect foreign tourists to obey our laws as well.

    The State Department also advises LGBT tourists to "Avoid excessive physical displays of affection in public, particularly in more conservative countries or regions," which is just another way of saying, "Don't do it if you're not in a major Western European city."

    If an athlete does not want to play by the IOC's rules, then the athlete could choose not to go to the Olympics at all. And don't give me any of that "The IOC isn't upholding its charter" crap. The IOC is not any sort of moral authority. It's a corporatist organization that is so corrupt that it makes the NCAA look like the face of God herself.

    And that really shouldn't be news to anyone, given the biennial news cycle of stories about the corruption. So really, why would you expect the IOC to care if you haven't written them a multi-billion dollar check yet?

    Ultimately, Russia is a sovereign nation. Sovereign nations get to make their own laws. Outside influence is typically not appreciated. Indeed, throughout the world, the LGBT identity is seen as the quintessential symbol of American/Western influence, and these laws are just as much a rejection of Western society as a rejection of LGBT people. Rants against homosexuality are often intertwined with rants against Western imperialism. Robert Mugabe, for example, has often claimed that homosexuality is un-African and did not exist in Zimbabwe until the British arrived.

    Our reaction here in America, with boycotts to raise "awareness" to overblown comparisons to Nazis to uncoordinated calls to break the law (rather than an organized and planned civil disobedience strategy), plays into the narrative of Western imperialism. It confirms Russians' beliefs that the Americans seek to impose their ideology on them from on high.

    Unfortunately, the political and diplomatic avenues of change are slow, frustrating, concessionary, and necessary. Sometimes, as average citizens, there is little we can do to address systemic problems in other nations.

    But humanitarian organizations can help fill the gap and provide more immediate and direct assistance to the people in need.

    Posted by: John | Aug 16, 2013 6:44:38 PM

  20. "Nuke back to stone age" You're forgetting our President has no balls. I think you're all secreting dreaming of a Tiananmen Square scenario. Would you give your life for blow j---s and anal se-?

    Posted by: BE | Aug 16, 2013 6:58:23 PM

  21. well--that's interesting. I wonder what it'll be next week.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Aug 16, 2013 7:02:53 PM

  22. Listen, sports is competition. Athletes are playing for their country. US athletes are some of the best in the world, are are playing for their country AND what that country stands for, or what's the point? International sports are inherently political, and we should be playing for what we stand for as a country. /lecture]

    Posted by: Kev C | Aug 16, 2013 7:05:02 PM

  23. "They’re going to agree with those laws in some ways, they’re going to disagree with those laws in other ways,”..."This law is no different.”

    Yes, Scott Blackmun, an athlete may go to a location like Whistler where he is protected, safe and free and he may disagree with a law that says, for example, that he can't park his rent-a-car in a tow-away zone during rush hour. And then he may go to Sochi and find he "disagrees" with the law that says he will be fined thousands of dollars and thrown in prison if he mentions his family in public.
    And it's exactly the SAME THING, isn't it?

    The more these corrupt Olympic heads talk, the more angry I get about this whole ugly fiasco.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 16, 2013 7:48:53 PM

  24. Harvey Fierstein is still the one you try to hide when guests come over.

    Posted by: BE | Aug 16, 2013 8:39:44 PM

  25. Demand and pressure President Obama to wear a rainbow pin supporting LBGT equal rights and equal protection when he goes to the G8 and watch Putins head pop.

    Posted by: Will | Aug 16, 2013 9:25:01 PM

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