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U.S. Olympic Committee Clarifies: Russian Law Is “Inconsistent With” Olympic Principles

“[R]estricting the right to act and speak in support of the LGBT community are inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements,” U.S. Olympic Committee chief wrote this week. While in Russia, however, the U.S. chief also said it was his “strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation we visit.”

Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) views Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law as being “inconsistent w[ith] fundamental Olympic principles,” USOC communications chief Patrick Sandusky tweeted Friday.

The “clarification” came because the committee’s CEO, Scott Blackmun, earlier in the week said it was the USOC’s “strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit. This law is no different.”

Blackmun added that the USOC is “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.”

Saying that the role of the USOC is “to make sure that our athletes are prepared to compete and aren’t distracted while they’re here,” Blackmun continued, “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.”

The response sparked questions from some quarters about what the USOC’s position was on the law, leading to Sandusky’s clarification Friday morning:

At the same time, BuzzFeed also has obtained a letter from Blackmun dated August 12, in which he wrote to the “U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Family,” in part:

There have been conflicting media reports regarding the applicability of the laws during the Games, and we continue to seek assurances that athletes, delegation members, the media and fans will be safe while attending the Games next year. Whether or not we receive those assurances, however, I want you to know how we feel about the law itself.

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. Our overriding obligation is to deliver a well-prepared team and to support our athletes, all of them. That is where we will direct our energies.

It remains unclear, however, what the U.S. Olympic Committee’s response will be should such “assurances” not be reached and what formal guidance the committee will give to U.S. athletes about the law.

Read the USOC letter:

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