PARK CITY, Utah — Bode Miller felt no need to measure his words when asked about Russia’s anti-gay law.
“I think it’s absolutely embarrassing that there’s countries and there’s people who are that intolerant and that ignorant,” he said Monday, one of the few athletes willing to take a stand on the subject at the U.S. Olympic media summit featuring Sochi hopefuls.
“But it’s not the first time,” Miller said. “We’ve been dealing with human-rights issues probably since there were humans.”
At 35 and with five Olympic medals to his credit, Miller is trying for his fifth Winter Games. He has, over the years, built a reputation as an unconventional firebrand, unafraid to state his opinion on sports, skiing or society in general.
He said the Russian law puts athletes in an awkward position.
“I think it’s unfortunate when they get stuffed together because there are politics in sports and athletics,” Miller said. “They always are inte rtwined, even though people try to keep them separate or try to act like they’re separate. Asking an athlete to go somewhere and compete and be a representative of a philosophy and … then tell them they can’t express their views or they can’t say what they believe, I think is pretty hypocritical or unfair.”
The USOC’S official stance, first communicated in August in a letter to athletes and others in the Olympic community, is that it disagrees with the law but that a boycott is out of the question.
“We’re trying to educate the athletes that we’re getting all the assurances we can from the IOC that athletes will be safe, fans will be safe, and everyone in Sochi will be able to focus on competition,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.
The USOC, which brings more athletes to the games and more TV and advertising dollars to the table than any Olympic federation, has shown no desire so far to use that heft to lead a protest that might pressure the Russian h osts.
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun and chairman Larry Probst have a news conference set for Tuesday, but aren’t expected to break any new ground on the issue.
Article continues belowLike Miller, figure skater Ashley Wagner was also irritated by the law, which bans propagandizing “nontraditional” relationships.
“I firmly believe that your preferences don’t make you any less of a being. It’s not what defines you,” said Wagner, who has gay friends and family members.
“It’s inconvenient to talk about,” she said. “But it’s something I feel so strongly about.”
Last week, a top Olympic official said the IOC didn’t have the authority to intervene in Russia’s lawmaking and is convinced there will be no discrimination against athletes or spectators at the games.
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