US Olympic committee adds sexual orientation to policy
AP National Writer
COLORADO SPRINGS — The U.S. Olympic Committee board revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, a nod to its disapproval of the Russian anti-gay law recently passed by the Olympic host country.
At his annual address to the USOC Assembly on Friday, CEO Scott Blackmun said the federation is not in the business of trying to influence Russian policy.
“The fact that we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law does not mean that we support the law, and we do not,” Blackmun said.
The board passed the measure Thursday, a week after chairman Larry Probst, a new member of the International Olympic Committee, said he would support a similar change to the IOC Olympic charter. Currently, it does not mention sexual orientation as a form of discrimination.
“We thought it would be good to take a look at our own code of conduct,” Probst said after the USOC’s quarterly board meeting. “It was the appropriate thing for us to do. It’s important to us to walk the talk.”
With the Sochi Olympics less than four months away, Blackmun said the USOC is seeking clarity from the IOC on what will and won’t be regarded as violations of the IOC rule against using the Olympic stage to make political protests or demonstrations.
“I think everybody has concerns over the uncertainty about where the line will be drawn,” Blackmun said. “How do we protect the athletes? We strongly believe the athletes need to be free to be themselves. That doesn’t necessarily need to include dialogue about changing the laws but it clearly includes allowing people to live the lifestyle they live here when they’re there.”
Meantime, he said the USOC has given the athletes freedom to express themselves in the lead-up to the Games “however they see fit.”
Blackmun pointed to last week’s comments from Bode Miller, who said “I think it’s absolutely embarrassing that there’s countries and there’s people who are that intolerant and that ignorant,” as an example of the USOC’s tolerance of any opinion.
Meanwhile, Probst said hosting a game on U.S. soil “is a priority” for the USOC.
Though he didn’t commit to a bid for the 2024 Olympics, he said the USOC “is far better positioned for success” than it has been in the past.
The USOC board has been exploring a possible bid, but doesn’t have to commit until late next year.
“We’re addressing all the important factors while seeking feedback from the worldwide community,” Probst said. “We are gathering as much information as we can. We are sharing and we are listening and we believe we are on the right track.”
Blackmun said the prospect of a bid is a popular topic when he’s stopped in the hallways at the Assembly.
“There’s a lot of genuine interest in that,” he said. “I think people would be proud to have the Games back here.”
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