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USOC CEO: ‘It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation’

Aug 14, 2013, 4:36 PM EDT

Scott Blackmun Getty Images

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun is waiting on clarification on Russia’s anti-gay law, like the International Olympic Committee is, but would like to see U.S. athletes comply with any laws in place.

“It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit,” Blackmun told R-Sport on Wednesday. “This law is no different.”

The Russian news agency asked Blackmun his interpretation of the law.

“We’re looking to the IOC for some leadership in this issue,” Blackmun said. “They have been in discussions with the Russian authorities, so we’re awaiting for some clarification from them.

“Our job, first and foremost, is to make sure that our athletes are prepared to compete and aren’t distracted while they’re here. We’re a sports organization, and we’ll leave the diplomacy on the legal issues to the diplomats, and we’re not going to get involved.”

Asked about involvement if an athlete makes a protest, Blackmun responded:

“You can’t judge in advance what you’re going to do. Each Games is different. The athletes are always going into countries with laws different than his or her own country. They’re going to agree with those laws in some ways, they’re going to disagree with those laws in other ways.”

On Monday, the Russian Interior Ministry said its employees will “act in the framework” of a law banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” toward minors “during the Olympics as well as during any other time.”

It also said fears of sexually-based discrimination of Olympic athletes and guests are “absolutely groundless and farfetched.”

The Russian Interior Ministry controls the country’s police force, according to R-Sport. Here are the full comments made to Russian news agency Interfax:

“The law mentioned above has come into effect and operates in Russia.”

“Due to this, employees of the Russian Interior Ministry will act in the framework of the Russian law in general and the law protecting children from harmful information in particular during the Olympics as well as during any other time.

“This law applies to individuals “whose goal is to provoke underage persons to get involved in non-traditional sexual relations.

“Law enforcement authorities will take measures against individuals performing such actions in accordance with the Russian law.

“Law enforcement authorities can not have any questions of people of non-traditional sexual orientation not committing such actions, not holding any provocations and peacefully participating with everyone in the Olympic events.”

“Thus, fears of rights violations of representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation, preventing them from participating in the Olympics and sexually-based discrimination of Olympic athletes and guests are absolutely groundless and farfetched.”

The head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, agreed with the interior ministry’s statement, according to R-Sport.

“If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken,” Zhukov said Monday. “People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever.”

The IOC has said the last two weeks that it “received a number of assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

On Friday, IOC president Jacques Rogge said the Russian government gave the IOC assurances about the law Thursday but more clarifications were required. Rogge cited translation issues.

Here’s how Russian news outlet RT.com explained the law:

The legislation “prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality to minors” was enacted on June 30, when it was signed by president Putin. It’s an amendment to the law “On protecting children from information harmful to their health and development”.

If found guilty of promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships”, individuals could face fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$150). The sum would be multiplied by 10 if those individuals appear to be civil servants. Organizations, meanwhile, would have to pay 1 million rubles (about $30,000) or have their activity suspended for 90 days if they do not comply with the fresh amendment.

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  1. Matthew - Aug 14, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Reblogged this on Carolina Mountain Blue and commented:
    Good luck enforcing that, mr. Blackmun….no, really, good luck enforcing it.

  2. cutelittleguy02 - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:19 AM

    So why they beat and jail LGBT people in Russia? I would translate the law as ” welcome to Russia if you really don t like LGBT, so here in Russia, you can jail them, beat them or even kill them”

  3. nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 15, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    One gigantic problem here is that the vile new Russian law is insanely vague. Example: if the visiting family of an athlete, two legally married women and their 10-year-old child, walk down the street and the moms are holding hands and perhaps kiss, even a quick peck goodbye, as any couple might, that could be considered a violation of “the law protecting children from harmful information” and they would face arrest and jail. And the mixed signals from Czar Vladimir and his underlings offer no assurance it will not happen.

  4. robgmartin67 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    So basically what you are saying, Mr. Blackmun, is that you are placing a policy of D.A.D.T. on U.S. athletes for the Sochi Games. Basically you are telling athletes like Johnny Weir not to “act that way” for fear of violating Russia’s laws against “propagandizing non-traditional sexual relations” because “It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit, This law is no different.” Thank you for supporting our U.S. athletes, especially those who happen to be lesbian or gay….NOT!!

  5. mramseymd - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    Mr. Blackmun could not be more wrong. He needs to read the webpage of the USOC, regarding the purpose of the USOC and the values of Olympism:

    http://www.teamusa.org/About-the-USOC/Inside-the-USOC/Olympic-Movement

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