Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter prohibits demonstrations and “political, religious or racial propaganda” in Olympic sites or venues. Among potential penalties for violating the charter is being sent home from the Olympics.
Four-time Olympian Bode Miller, the greatest men’s alpine skier in U.S. history and winner of five Olympic medals, took the strongest stand of any athlete to date. Miller said Monday said Russia's anti-gay law showed an intolerance and ignorance that embarrassed him as a human being.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is waiting for International Olympic Committee guidance on the matter, particularly as it relates to demonstration or protest, including the wearing of anything that indicates support for the LGBT community.
“I want to make it very clear we have not asked our athletes not to speak out,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said Tuesday. “We want our athletes to be aware of the law and possible consequences.”
Such support could be construed as a violation of the Russian law, which bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and calls for penalties that include arrest, fine and deportation. Many people feel the law’s limited language is a smokescreen for Russia to discriminate against gays.
The Olympic Charter also prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.” USOC chairman Larry Probst, elected last month as an International Olympic Committee, member said Tuesday he would "absolutely vote yes" to amending the Olympic Charter so sexual orientation would be a specific part of that list.
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Monday, “We disagree with the law and do not believe it is reflective of the Olympic spirit and Olympic Charter. Our focus is on preparing our team to compete and ensuring that all our athletes, fans and supporters will be safe in Russia.”
Lysacek, whose chances of getting to the 2014 Olympics diminished with his Monday revelation of a new injury, has chosen not to take an individual stand on the Russian legislation. When I asked him why he was so cautious about speaking out, he said it was important to have everyone on the same page about the issue.
“I have done work with the U.S. State Department as a sports envoy, and one thing I learned from that is the State Department, U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Figure Skating – whoever is making a statement – have thought it out very precisely and cautiously,” he said.
“I know how powerful one voice is to address a political issue. And I know how detrimental clouding that voice with multiple voices can be.”
And why wasn’t he willing to go at least as as far as Wagner did?
“I am willing to stand behind the USOC and let them speak for me,” Lysacek said. “I’m a representative of theirs.”
Wagner said she appreciated the guidance the USOC has given all athletes on the issue.
Then she chose to speak for herself, on behalf of millions.
“I can’t stay quiet,” she said.