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Greg Louganis calls on American athletes to dedicate Sochi to gay friends, family

American Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis tells LGBT panel that boycott of 2014 Winter Games in Sochi would hurt wrong people.
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Former United States Olympian Greg Louganis visits USA House on July 31, 2012 in London, England. (Joe Scarnici/AFP/Getty Images)

American athletes should compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia for a gay friend or relative rather than boycott the Games, diving legend Greg Louganis told a hearing on LGBT rights Friday.

Louganis told Human Right First and the House LGBT Equality Caucus that he opposes boycotts because they “hurt the wrong people,” USA Today reported.

Russia passed “gay propaganda” laws earlier this year that lawmakers said are designed to protect children.

Louganis is a four-time Olympic gold medalist who missed the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow because of a boycott.

An openly gay man, he also advocated for strong LGBT representation on the American delegation headed to Sochi in February as a message to the Russians.

Louganis said he's heard his named mentioned as a representative.

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“If it would be helpful, I would be there in a heartbeat,” he told the newspaper, but added he doesn’t want to be a distraction.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said there’s no announcement pending on who will lead the American delegation.

He reiterated, however, the United States has long pressed Russia to host an open Olympics.

“I don’t have any information on what that delegation will look like or the timing of that announcement,” Carney told the Washington Blade. “We’ve made it clear that we expect Russia to conduct Olympics in a way that respects the rights of all participants.”

Louganis’s proposal is the latest strategy debated by politicians, athletes, and human rights advocates on how to best voice opposition against Russian laws.

Earlier this week, Der Spiegel reported German President Joachim Gauck will skip the Games in protest, as will European Union justice commissioner Viviane Reding. Both cited Russia’s human rights record in making their decisions. 

Some media outlets have called them the highest ranking politicians to take such a step, although both hold somewhat lesser positions in their respective organizations. No world leaders have suggested a boycott; Gauck's position is mostly ceremonial.

The City of Vancouver, which hosted the 2010 Winter Games, is sending a city councilor to Russia to advocate for LGBT rights.

Tim Stevenson, who is gay, will ask the International Olympic Committee to add an LGBT non-discrimination clause to the Olympic charter.

“Our objective is not to challenge Russian policy, nor to provoke an incident in Sochi, but to channel the support of the LGBT community in a positive direction with the IOC,” Stevenson said, according to local media.

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