US figure-skating champion Brian Boitano comes out as gay

Boitano now joins tennis ace and activist Billie Jean King and hockey play Caitlin Cahow to represent America during the Sochi Winter Games

Just days after Obama announced he would include two openly gay sports figures in his Russian Olympics delegation, US figure skating champion Brian Boitano has come out as gay.

Boitano now joins tennis ace and activist Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow to represent America during the Sochi Winter Games – the biggest statement the President has made yet over how the US views Russia’s homophobic laws.

Boitano, who won gold in 1988, had chosen to keep his private life well and truly under wraps in the past, because being gay was “just one part” of who he was.

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

"I have been fortunate to represent the United States of America in three different Olympics, and now I am honored to be part of the presidential delegation to the Olympics in Sochi.

"It has been my experience from competing around the world and in Russia that Olympic athletes can come together in friendship, peace and mutual respect regardless of their individual country's practices."

Obama has also decided against sending high-ranking officials to the games.

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympics Committee, confirmed that Russia would set up ‘public protest zones’ in Sochi for "people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something."

The IOC also approved the sending of a letter to athletes reminding them to refrain from protests or political gestures during the Sochi Games.

The message reiterates Rule 50 of the Olympic charter, which forbids demonstrations on Games grounds.

However, Bach confirmed previously that he had received assurance from Russian president Vladimir Putin that gay athletes will not face discrimination in Sochi, despite the recent passing of national laws banning "gay propaganda" in the country.

However, the law has raised questions over what could happen to athletes who wear pins or badges supporting gay rights.

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