Figure Skating

The Associated Press - Thursday Dec. 19, 2013 13:43 ET

Brian Boitano, former Olympic figure skating champion, says he’s gay

American great part of U.S. delegation for Sochi

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Former Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano announced Thursday that he is gay. (Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images)

Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano came out on Thursday, two days after he was named to the U.S. delegation for Sochi along with openly gay athletes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow.     

The 1988 gold medallist had always kept his personal life private, saying in a statement that "being gay is just one part of who I am." 

But President Barack Obama's decision to include openly gay athletes in the delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies, and not send high-ranking officials, was widely seen as a message to Russia about its treatment of gays and lesbians.     

"First and foremost I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance," Boitano said in his statement. "As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations."    

Russia has come under fierce criticism for passing national laws banning "gay propaganda," and some suggested the United States should boycott the Sochi Olympics in protest. Obama rejected that idea earlier this year, saying a stronger statement could be made by "gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze."     

But his choices for the U.S. delegation left little doubt about Obama's disapproval of the new Russian law.     

For the first time since 2000, the U.S. will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Olympics. 

Boitano and King will attend the opening ceremony. Cahow, a two-time medallist in women's hockey, will attend the closing ceremony with Olympic speed skating champions Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden.     

Meanwhile, the IOC approved a letter going out to athletes reminding them to refrain from protests or political gestures during the Sochi Games, reiterating Rule 50 of the Olympic charter, which forbids demonstrations on Olympic grounds.    

Bach previously said he'd received assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that gays will not be discriminated against in Sochi. But the Russian law has raised questions about what could happen to athletes who wear pins or badges or carry flags supporting gay rights.

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