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Italian IOC member accuses US, activists of political terrorism

Mario Pescante criticizes inclusion of gay athletes in American delegation to Sochi

International Olympic Committee member Mario Pescante has reportedly criticized the US for selecting gay athletes to be part of its delegation to Sochi to make a political point. Pescante says the Games are not the forum for making political statements. Credit: flickr.com

Italian International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Mario Pescante has criticized the United States for selecting gay athletes to be part of its delegation to Sochi and has accused the Obama administration and gay rights activists of engaging in political terrorism for speaking out against Russia's anti-gay legislation, according to a translation of the official's remarks, America Blog's John Aravosis says.

Rai Sport published Pescante's remarks in Italian.

Pescante's observation that the American delegation to Sochi includes four lesbians prompted some head-scratching. What has been widely broadcast is that the delegation includes two lesbians and a gay man — tennis legend Billie Jean King, hockey player Caitlin Cahow and Olympic-gold-medal figure skater Brian Boitano.

Pescante, who says the Games are not the forum to tackle political issues that "sports supports daily," deemed it "absurd" that gay athletes have been included in the delegation to show that gay rights are established in the US.

The Italian National Olympic Committee has yet to comment on Pescante's remarks.

In a recent interview with ESPN, the head of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Scott Blackmun also registered his objection to political expression at Sochi, saying that he hopes American athletes feel free to speak their minds before heading to the Winter Games but that they will be at the Olympics to compete, not to be political.

In October, Blackmun said that the USOC was not putting pressure on American athletes to keep quiet about Russia's anti-gay laws, even as he warned about the consequences of speaking up at the Games.

BuzzFeed reports that Athlete Ally, the Human Rights Campaign and AllOut have criticized Blackmun for his remarks. 

The IOC's new president, Thomas Bach, also recently reiterated the sports body's stance that athletes should not court controversy at the Games by participating in protests or making political statements.