US Olympic Committee to add sexual orientation to non-discrimination code

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After months of controversy surrounding Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics, The US Olympic Committee (USOC) announced on October 11 that they would add sexual orientation to their non-discrimination code. 

USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun during the USOC assembly in Colorado: 

I want to address the legislation in Russia prohibiting advocacy of nontraditional relationships among minors. Even though we have been assured by the International Olympic Committee that the new law will not directly impact anybody in Russia for the Games, it is important for us to emphasize that we believe the law is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements…. Our board voted to amend the USOC’s code of conduct to include specific mention of sexual orientation in our own nondiscrimination policy. [The USOC is] actively seeking more clarity from the IOC on what will and will not be regarded as violations of Rule 50 in the Games environment.

According to Rule 50, it bans any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda from any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

The organization was pressured by 40 lawmakers to take action against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws. 

“We call on the United States Olympic Committee to ensure that any American athlete, or someone associated with an American team, is afforded the right to show solidarity with, and support of, LGBT people around the globe to be free from discrimination and harm,” read the letter submitted by lawmakers. 

Blackmun expressed that they wanted their athletes to have the “freedom to express themselves in the run-up to the Games however they see fit” and pointed to athletes like Nick Symmonds and Bode Miller as examples. 

“As a sports organization, our mission is to help enable American athletes to win medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Blackmun concluded. “Our overriding obligation is to deliver a well-prepared team and to support our athletes, all of them… the fact that we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law does not mean that we support the law, and we do not.”

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