Greg Louganis, the Olympic gold medalist diver, encouraged Americans to dedicate their trip to the Sochi Olympics to the LGBTQ community in protest of Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Louganis won gold medals in 1984 and 1988 as a springboard and platform diver. Since his Olympic victory, Louganis has continued to be an activist for LGBT rights and famously discusses his status as HIV positive. In October, Louganis married Johnny Chaillot, a paralegal, after meeting on

“It was an incredible journey…I feel like we’ve been through a lifetime in a very short time,” Louganis said of his relationship.

Greg Louganis Against Boycott Of Sochi Olympics

While addressing the House LGBT Equality Caucus in Washington DC, Louganis firmly stated that he is not in favor of a boycott of the upcoming Sochi Olympics. However, Louganis said that the most helpful thing athletes can do is participate and publicly thank gay friends or relatives that have helped them reach their athletic goals.

“I don’t see how the IOC [International Olympic Committee] can say anything about that, because it’s personal, not political…If you have a supportive aunt, uncle, cousin, friend who is gay, you don’t win a gold medal by yourself. There is a team of people behind you. And to recognize those people is a way athletes can show their support of the LGBT community and what’s going on in Russia,” Louganis explained.

Athletes Can Thank LGBT Supporters As Protest Against Anti-Gay Laws

One of the anti-gay laws bans any “propaganda” supporting “nontraditional sexual relations,” which means that Olympic athletes could get in trouble for wearing a rainbow pin or other LGBT rights paraphernalia. Speaking out after a win has already been proven controversial, but not as risky. In August, American athlete Nick Symmonds won a silver medal at the World Track and Field Championships in Moscow and spoke out against the anti-LGBT laws at a press conference following his win and dedicated his medal to his LGBT friends.

“As much as I can speak about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them…Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”

Later, he spoke on the issue again, saying, “I respect Russians’ ability to govern their people…I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules.”

Louganis’ stance against a boycott has received many negative responses from members of the LGBT community, and he says that he understands how some might see a boycott as the best way to stand up against the anti-gay laws currently enacted in Russia. However, he claims to speak on behalf of the Olympic athletes who might not have another chance to participate in the Olympics. The career of an athlete is a short one, and Louganis believes that a boycott would only hurt the athletes themselves. Louganis speaks form experience: he was a member of the U.S. Olympic team who decided to boycott the Moscow Games of 1980.

There have reportedly been rumors that Louganis could be chosen by the Obama administration to attend the Sochi games as a member of the official US delegation. The idea would be to send many prominent LGBT advocates to the games in protest of the controversial Russian laws. In a press briefing, Louginis said that he has not yet been approached, but, should the offer come, he would be more than happy to accept. “If it would be helpful, I would be there in a heartbeat. If I would be a distraction, that’s my concern. I don’t want to be a distraction. But if there’s any way I can be of benefit, focusing a light on injustice, then I’ll be there."

As the 2014 Winter Olympics approach, more and more people are announcing their intention to boycott. Cher recently revealed that she turned down an invitation to perform at the opening ceremonies and in August, actor Wentworth Miller declined an invitation from the St. Petersburg International Film Festival. Heads of state, including German President Joachim Gauk and French President Francois Hollande, have also announced their refusal to attend the Sochi Olympics in protest of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws.

Neither the White House, nor President Obama, has publicly stated whether or not any major representative from the US government would be attending the Sochi Olympics.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will run from Feb. 7 — 23.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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