A high-profile American athlete in the U.S. delegation to next year’s Winter Olympics announced Thursday that he is gay, at a time when Olympics host Russia has warned of outward expressions of homosexuality during the games in Sochi.
Brian Boitano, who won a gold medal in men’s figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics, said in a statement: “I am many things: a son, a brother, and uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am.” Boitano is now the third openly-gay member of the U.S. Olympic delegation, in addition to tennis star Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning “gay propaganda” for “nontraditional sexual relations,” gay rights groups have criticized the country hosting the games in Sochi. The fact that the U.S. delegation includes gay athletes and lacks top elected U.S. officials — President Barack Obama is not attending — is seen by some as a protest of Russia’s anti-gay stance.
“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama said previously.
The White House named members of the delegation on Tuesday.
After Boitano’s announcement, Twitter users reacted to the news, with many expressing support for the athlete:
Others expressed surprise that the athlete’s sexual orientation wasn’t already common knowledge:
BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner tweeted Boitano’s full statement: