USOC chair would vote to amend Olympic charter to prohibit anti-gay bias

USOC chair would vote to amend Olympic charter to prohibit anti-gay bias

PARK CITY, Utah — America’s newest member of the International Olympic Committee would vote to amend the Olympic charter to list sexual orientation as a form of discrimination.

U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst, voted onto the IOC last month, said such an amendment is one of the few avenues available to the USOC as it tries to send a message to Russia, which recently passed an anti-gay law, less than a year before it hosts the Winter Olympics.

Larry Probst
Larry Probst

The sixth item in the charter’s “Fundamental Principles of Olympism” says “any form of discrimination … on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” It does not specifically mention sexual orientation.

“If it came to a vote of IOC members, I would absolutely vote yes to amend the charter,” Probst said Tuesday during a news conference at the USOC media summit.

Probst reiterated that an American boycott of the Sochi Olympics is not an option, but asked what moves the USOC could make, both Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun mentioned the possible amendment, which would have to be done at a future IOC meeting.

“There are people who would like to see sexual orientation added to that list,” Blackmun said. “We’d support a change in that direction.”

Besides mentioning the amendment, the USOC leaders stuck mainly to their party line: They are not there to change Russian law and their top priority is ensuring a safe and successful Olympics for their athletes. They are also not telling their athletes to not speak up.

“First and foremost, we’re a sports organization,” Blackmun said. “The only organization in the world whose job it is to make sure American athletes are able to compete in the Olympic Games. We’re not an advocacy organization or a human-rights organization. We’re part of the worldwide Olympic movement, though. What we can do is advocate for change within our move ment.

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“We want to lead by example and advocate internally to make sure we, as a family, are sending the message that we don’t tolerate discrimination.”

Among the few athletes at this week’s Olympic summit to speak out against the Russian law was skier Bode Miller, who called the existence of such a law “absolutely embarrassing.”

Most others have said, in one way or another, that they’d let the USOC handle the politics while they focus on sports.

IOC officials have said they don’t have the authority to intervene in Russia’s lawmaking and are convinced there will be no discrimination against athletes or spectators at the games.

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