Photo by Roger Erickson
Olympic legend Greg Louganis has written an essay that states why he does not support an outright boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics which are scheduled for Sochi, Russia due to President Putin's recent reactionary laws that target LGBT people in the country with imprisonment or worse treatment. Louganis admits that it may seem odd that he would support the Olympics taking place, writing
As Louganis writes that the laws "violate everything I’ve spent my career fighting for; namely, love and respect for all people. It was hard enough to compete as a gay, closeted athlete in the United States. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like for gay athletes in Russia, knowing that if you were to come out, you would be considered a criminal and could lose everything you’ve worked your entire life to achieve."
But he goes on to explain how his own and his peers' athletic careers suffered due to the United States boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He offers this as an alternative to a boycott by countries opposed to Russia's policies:
"There’s a better way to speak out against President Putin and call out his bigotry for exactly what it is: speaking up for equal rights and educating people around the world about the persistence of homophobia. I’ve spent my post-diving career doing just this. I’ve promoted HIV/AIDS awareness, defended the civil liberties of the LGBT community, and taken a stand against 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.' Rather than boycott, I, along with several amazing organizations including Athlete Ally and All Out, plan to use the Sochi Games as a teachable moment for the world."
Louganis is not the only Olympic medalist who has come out publicly to refute a ban or boycott of the Olympics. Openly gay ice skater Johnny Weir, who is married to a Russian ex-pat, has also voiced his opinion that a boycott is not the course of action in the best interest of Olympic athletes. Weir said that he “still will compete” and that “the Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talents.”