Gay rights in Russia: What athletes have had to say

February 18

The Washington Post’s Kathy Lally reports from Sochi on gay people who have felt pressure from a new Russian law that prohibits the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” The pressure might not be felt on the Olympic grounds, she says, but it’s felt elsewhere.

Here’s what some athletes and other prominent people connected to these games have said about Russia’s law both in Sochi and in the lead-up to the Games.

Johnny Weir, NBC commentator

The figure skater has gotten attention for his flamboyant wardrobe at the Games; outfits have included a hot-pink Chanel blazer, wedge boots and a big double necklace. He came out as gay in his memoir, published in January 2011, and is married to Victor Voronov.

He told the AP from Sochi: “As far as people being upset with me for being here, I want everybody to know that I’m proud being here and I’m proud to be representing gay America in my own small way.”

And said to Reuters last month: “Being gay isn’t something that I chose, being gay is something I was born into. But being an Olympic athlete was something that I chose and something I worked hard for and I’ll see it to any necessary end. . . . While equality is necessary all over the world, the Olympics is not the place for me to make a stand.”

And also:

“I’m just going there to be me, to be gay, to be proud and to be a strong light for the Russian LGBT community.”


(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Bode Miller, most decorated U.S. male Alpine skier

Miller called the law an “embarrassment” and criticized the International Olympic Committee’s prohibition on athletes’ expressing political views at an Olympics-related event in Park City, Utah, in September:

“I think it’s absolutely embarrassing that there are countries and people who are that intolerant and that ignorant. But it’s not the first time; we’ve been dealing with human rights issues probably since there were humans.”


(Darron Cummings/AP)

Ashley Wagner, two-time U.S. figure-skating champion

Wagner said at the Park City event that she was determined to discuss the issue as someone with gay family members and many friends in the LGBT community.

“I really believe we all should have equal rights. I obviously do not support the legislation in Russia, but it’s not my place to go into Russia and tell them how to run their country.”


(Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

Steven Holcomb, bobsledder

Holcomb, who won gold in the four-man at the 2010 Vancouver Games, said boycotting would only help Russia.

“I think we should show up — pardon my French — and kick their [butt] and take names and go from there. That’d be such a bigger statement, in my mind.”


(Jason Decrow/AP)

Billie Jean King, member of U.S. delegation

The two-time Olympian is gay and intended to make a statement about the Obama administration’s disapproval of Russia’s legislation with her presence. King had to drop out of the delegation due to her mother’s failing health; her mother died Feb. 7.

In January, she said: “This is first and foremost about the athletes. They have trained so long. This could be their moment, their time to shine, to represent their country and be in the Olympic Village and meet other athletes and hopefully win some medals. It’s a lot of pressure, and I hope we don’t lose sight of that.”


(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Jeremy Abbott, figure skater

Abbott said in August that Russia is a host. The Denver Post reports: “I don’t want to say bad things about a country that’s hosting the world, essentially. Maybe I don’t agree with their policies, and maybe I don’t agree with some things, but that’s for them to sort out. My speaking out just makes me look like [a jerk].”


(Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Anastasia Bucsis, Canadian speed skater

Bucsis is gay and has criticized the law but said she wouldn't protest.

Radio Free Europe quoted her as saying: “I’m not going to make any fuss. I’m here to compete as a speed skater and represent my country the best way I know how.”


(Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, Austrian ski jumper

Iraschko-Stolz is gay and married her partner, Isabel Stolz, last year. She said last week that it’s not worth protesting because “no one cares.”

At a news conference, she said: “I am here as a sportswoman. . . . I always say I’m together with my woman now and don’t have any problems. . . . To jump pretty good is also a statement. I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future and we should give them time.”

Explore a map that shows the state of gay rights around the world, or read about the pressure on gay Russians outside of the Olympics.

promo image

World of extremes
on gay rights

SECTION: {section=world, subsection=olympics}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=5, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=5, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=world, subsection=olympics}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=5, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=5, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments