PARK CITY, UTAH— While some athletes danced around commenting on Russia's recent anti-gay legislation, American skiing great Bode Miller met the issue head on by calling next year's Sochi Winter Olympic hosts “ignorant”.
Speaking at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) media summit, the outspoken Miller was very clear on his view of a controversial Russian law which bans the spread of homosexual propaganda among minors.
“It is absolutely embarrassing that there are countries and people who are that intolerant, that ignorant,” said Miller, who will be bidding for a place on his fifth U.S. Olympic team.
“But it's not the first time we've been dealing with human rights issues since there were humans.”
Critics say the law bars all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals. Supporters say the law will help protect children.
Earlier, six members of the U.S. figure skating team were also asked their thoughts on the law that has drawn worldwide condemnation and cast a shadow over the buildup to the Feb. 7-23 Winter Games.
All of the figure skaters, with the exception of U.S. women's champion Ashley Wagner, danced around the delicate issue, saying they were only athletes and leaving it up to the USOC and International Olympic Committee (IOC) to establish a position.
Miller, however, has seldom let anyone else speak for him and has never shied away from controversy during a skiing career that has made him one of the sport's most popular and successful athletes.
The five-time Olympic medalist, who once broke away from the U.S. ski federation to form his own team, also had strong words for the USOC and the IOC for not standing up for the values of tolerance and openness they preach in their charters.
“I think it's crappy that we don't have a better system dealing with that stuff,” said Miller. “Asking an athlete to go somewhere and compete and be a representative of a philosophy and all the crap that goes along with it and then tell them they can't express their views or say what they believe I think is pretty hypocritical.”
“If they let me make the rules I will switch it for you immediately, I can solve a lot of stuff really quickly but unfortunately no one has elected me or given me that kind of power,” said Miller.
“My main emotion when I hear about stuff like that is embarrassment. As a human being I think it is embarrassing.”