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USOC not asking U.S. athletes to keep quiet about Russia’s anti-gay law

Joe Lago
Fourth-Place Medal

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(USA Today Sports)

PARK CITY, Utah – Criticism of Russia's anti-gay law by U.S. athletes, such as Bode Miller's scathing remarks on Monday, is not being squelched by the United States Olympic Committee.

"I want to make it very clear that we have not asked our athletes not to speak up," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said Tuesday at the Team USA Media Summit.

On Monday, Miller told reporters "it's absolutely embarrassing that there's countries and there's people who are that intolerant and that ignorant," referring to Russian legislation passed in June that many critics believe limits gay rights.

Blackmun said that while they won't ask athletes to muzzle themselves, they are "making sure our athletes are aware of the law and aware of the possibility of the consequences. Because it's our job, first and foremost, to keep them safe while they're in Russia."

So what would happen to an Olympic athlete if he or she decides to publicly denounce Russia's anti-gay law during the Sochi Games? The USOC doesn't know.

Blackmun said the USOC is "actively" trying to gain clarity on what action would be taken by the Russians if Miller or any other U.S. athlete speaks out. On Monday, Miller called Russia's anti-gay law "embarrassing" and "ignorant."

USOC chairman Larry Probst reiterated the USOC's position against a potential boycott of the Winter Games – "I think that is a non-issue at this point," he said – but the USOC might look to influence from within the Olympic movement, perhaps even advocating a change in the Olympic charter to include sexual orientation as part of its discrimination policy.

 

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