USOC studying new Russian law with eye on safety
DENVER (AP) - Concerned with Russia's new anti-gay laws, leaders at the U.S. Olympic Committee are in discussions with the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. State Department to ensure the safety of athletes at the Sochi Olympics.
In a letter to Olympic constituents, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun wrote that because the Russian law is new "we do not know how and to what extent (it) will be enforced'' during the Olympics.
But he said the safety and security of American athletes is always a primary concern.
He referenced the Olympic Charter, which prohibits any form of discrimination, and said the USOC will gather as much information as it can to pass on to its athletes, and other Americans traveling to Russia, in the coming months.
In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations'' and imposing fines on those holding gay pride rallies.
On Thursday, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that all athletes' rights would be respected during the Olympics but also said athletes would "have to respect the laws of the country.''
In the letter addressed to several U.S. Olympic organizations and dated July 25, Blackmun wrote, "Like us, the IOC recognizes the seriousness of the issue, and they are in discussions with the Russian authorities on behalf of all nations to ascertain what the laws do and do not proscribe and how they could impact visitors to the Games.''
He said that while the USOC supports equal rights for all, its top priority is bringing a well-prepared, competitive team to the Olympics, which run Feb. 7-23.
"To that end, we will seek to find out as much as we can and we will share that information with our athletes and other Americans traveling to Sochi,'' he wrote.
The USOC is opposed to a boycott of the Games - a topic that has come up frequently in recent weeks, with the anti-gay law and tensions over Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum making headlines.
"While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country's best interests,'' USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement last month.