Gay US figure skater Johnny Weir has appeared on television wearing Russian military uniform to say he is still against “any kind” of boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, despite fears “I could be beat up on the streets and no one would protect me.”
In an interview with ESPN 2, Johnny Weir said he wished to compete in his third olympics without hearing any more about boycotts to campaign the passing of anti-gay laws in Russia.
He said: “I am directly against a boycott of any kind. While many people can sit on their couch at home and say ‘Oh, we shouldn’t go to Russia because it’s bad’ — staying away is something I think is the worst possible thing we can do.”
The three-time US national champion, who previously called himself a “hardcore Russophile,” added that although he is openly gay, he considers himself an athlete first.
He said: “Before a gay man, before a white man, I am an Olympian. That’s what I worked for from age 12 and a boycott would negate all of that. It would basically punish all of the non-LGBT athletes that would be on the US Olympic team for Sochi.
“Even if we stay away, Russia will still put on an Olympics, they will win all of the medals and it will be even more of a propaganda machine for Russia.”
Weir, who could be seen wearing a Russian military uniform throughout the interview, said he planned to perform in St Petersburg at the end of the month – the city where the anti-gay “propaganda” law was first conceived.
He said: “I’ve been traveling there for a long time, I married into the Russian culture, I’ve trained with their coaches, I’ve performed there.”
He also admitted fears however, adding: “I could be beat up on the street and no one would protect me because I’m gay. Those things are scary.”
Weir also said that his presence in Sochi “would be to empower the LGBT community of Russia and to make them realise that I am gay.”
He added: “I am celebrated in Russia and I’m here competing and me being gay has nothing to do with what I’m doing on the ice.”
President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.
Last month, Weir also expressed fears that he could be arrested for being gay at the Olympic games, although added: “If it takes me getting arrested for people to pay attention and for people to lobby against this law, then I’m willing to take it.”