British Olympic Association: Boycotting Russian Winter Olympics would ‘penalise athletes’

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The British Olympic Association (BOA) says the proposed boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi because of the Russian Government’s position on LGBT rights would serve only to “penalise athletes.”

BOA spokesman Darryl Seibel told ITV News: “We think it is a far more powerful statement to go and compete than not and boycotts really serve only one purpose and that is to penalise athletes.”

He added: “Athletes are quite adept in understanding how to focus on their training and preparation and not allow very real and important issues to become burdens in their thought processes.”

When asked if there was a threat to gay athletes attending the Games in Sochi, Mr Seibel replied: “Safety and security are primary considerations for us with every delegation that we take to every Games.

“And we will work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other relevant authorities, to make certain the environment is as safe and secure as it can be for our delegation.”

With mixed messages coming out of Russia over the security of gay athletes attending next year’s Games, the BOA has deferred to the International Olympic Committee for guidance.

Mr Seibel said: “Where we are right now is we are monitoring the situation closely, we are in regular communication with the International Olympic Committee – they in turn are in communication with the Games Organising Committee and the Russian Government – and all of this is an effort to gain some clarity.

“Just in the last week we’ve seen conflicting statements from two senior officials within the Russian Government so we know the IOC is monitoring this very closely and we know the IOC will provide us with the information and clarity we need in due course.”

On Friday, IOC President Jacques Rogge reaffirmed his organisation’s commitment to a Winter Olympics free of all discrimination following calls from such names as Stephen Fry and Tory MP Mike Freer to either relocate or outright boycott the Games altogether.

Gay US figure skater Johnny Weir told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday that boycotting the Winter Olympics would be “silly”.

”To attack Russia is silly. It’s not Russia’s public’s fault that their government is so bigoted and creating so many problems for a minority group,” Weir said.