Gay former figure skater Johnny Weir on Russia’s anti-gay laws: ‘You have to respect the culture’

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Former figure skater Johnny Weir will be heading to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi as a sports commentator after he failed to register for the national championships, but said he will not be campaigning Russia’s anti-gay laws in any way as “you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.”

Weir, who announced his retirement from figure skating earlier this week, said he still wants to remain focused on the skating as opposed to the politics.

In an interview with The New York Times he said: “I risk jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement. I’m not a politician and I don’t really talk about politics.

“You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.”

The 29-year-old from Pennsylvania, who previously called himself a “hardcore Russophile,” has been a leading proponent against boycotting the Russian Games. Many in the LGBT community believe there is a case to do so following the Russian Parliament’s decision in June to pass censorship laws banning gay “propaganda”. 

He added: “It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been gay my whole life. I don’t need to break any laws or wear a rainbow pin to show people that I support gay rights. I think I’ll do that just by being in Sochi and supporting our people there and know they are not alone.

“The gay community has not reacted well to me because some people think it’s my responsibility to be an activist. They’re expecting me to hate Russia because I haven’t been given equal rights in Russia.”

Weir also referred to Sir Elton John’s decision to perform concerts in Russia in December: “If it’s good enough for Elton John, it’s good enough for me. Every country’s going to have its issues.”