USOC backs gay rights but won't lead charge for change

Wed Oct 2, 2013 11:29am EDT
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By Steve Keating

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - U.S. Olympic officials said on Tuesday they support amending the Olympic Charter to boost support for gay athletes but cautioned that its main role is as a sports body and not a human rights organization.

A Russian law that forbids the dissemination of information on homosexuality to minors has been the hot topic at this week's United States Olympic Committee media summit with nearly all the 113 athletes in attendance asked for their thoughts.

But on Tuesday, about four months from the start of the Sochi Winter Games in Russia, it was USOC Chief Executive Scott Blackmun and chairman Larry Probst's turn in the hot seat.

"First and foremost we are a sport's organization, we're the only organization in the world whose job it is to make sure American athletes get a chance to compete in the Olympic Games," Blackmun told reporters. "We are not an advocacy organization or a human rights organization.

"We are a part of a worldwide Olympic movement and I think what we can do is advocate for change within our movement."

The USOC made it clear it will not be taking a lead in any effort to force change in Russia or organize protests but will work quietly behind the scenes and would support an amendment to the Olympic Charter to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"Anything we can do with the international Olympic movement, within the U.S. Olympic movement, we want to do to make sure people understand that we want all of our athletes to feel comfortable being part of the U.S. team," said Blackmun.

"We want to lead by example and we also want to advocate internally, within the global Olympic movement, to make sure we as family are doing everything we can to send the message we do not tolerate discrimination."   Continued...

Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, attends the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid