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U.S. Olympic Committee adds sexual orientation to non-discrimination policy

By Eddie Pells

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 11 2013 12:14 p.m. MDT

Olympic torches with the St. Bazil's Cathedral at the background during a relay in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. The relay for the Sochi Winter Games, which began Monday in Moscow, will pass through many cities that showcase the historical, cultural and ethnic richness of Russia.

Dmitry Lovetsky, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The U.S. Olympic Committee board revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, a nod to its disapproval of the Russian anti-gay law recently passed by the Olympic host country.

At his annual address to the USOC Assembly on Friday, CEO Scott Blackmun said the federation is not in the business of trying to influence Russian policy.

"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," Blackmun said.

The board passed the measure Thursday, a week after chairman Larry Probst, a new member of the International Olympic Committee, said he would support a similar change to the IOC Olympic charter. Currently, it does not mention sexual orientation as a form of discrimination.

With the Sochi Olympics less than four months away, Blackmun said the USOC is seeking clarity from the IOC on what will and won't be regarded as violations of the IOC rule against using the Olympic stage to make political protests or demonstrations.

Meantime, he said the USOC has given the athletes freedom to express themselves in the lead-up to the Games "however they see fit."

Blackmun pointed to last week's comments from Bode Miller, who said "I think it's absolutely embarrassing that there's countries and there's people who are that intolerant and that ignorant," as an example of the USOC's tolerance of any opinion.

Probst said hosting a game on U.S. soil "is a priority" for the USOC.

Though he didn't commit to a bid for the 2024 Olympics, he said the USOC "is far better positioned for success" than it has been in the past.

The USOC board has been exploring a possible bid, but doesn't have to commit until late next year.

"We're addressing all the important factors while seeking feedback from the worldwide community," Probst said. "We are gathering as much information as we can. We are sharing and we are listening and we believe we are on the right track."

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