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U.S. Olympic officials support more protection for gay athletes

October 01, 2013|By David Wharton

PARK CITY, UTAH — While continuing to steer just wide of the political uproar over Russia's new anti-gay laws, U.S. Olympic officials said Tuesday they would support boosting anti-discrimination language in the Olympic Charter.

"We are not an advocacy organization or a human-rights organization," U.S. Olympic Committee chief Scott Blackmun said. "What we can do is advocate for change within our group."

With the 2014 Sochi Winter Games only 128 days away, Blackmun and USOC Chairman Larry Probst faced questions about the issue at a media summit here.

The Russian legislation threatens prosecution for anyone who advocates gay rights in the presence of minors or in public displays such as parades. Government officials have given mixed signals about whether the laws would be enforced on athletes competing in the Games.

Blackmun and Probst reiterated their opposition to a boycott and said the USOC has tried to warn its athletes about the situation.

"We have not asked our athletes not to speak up," Blackmun said. "What we are trying to do is make sure our athletes are aware of the law."

The Olympic Charter opposes various forms of discrimination but does not specify gays, lesbians or transgender athletes. There has been talk about adding such language.

"If we’re talking about amending the Olympic Charter, I suspect there is a process," said Probst, who was recently elected as an International Olympic Committee  member. "I would absolutely vote yes to amend the charter."


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