'We have to show Putin who we are, what we're about'
Johnny Weir wants to compete in his third Olympics come February and doesn’t want to hear anything about a boycott to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws.
‘I am directly against a boycott of any kind,’ Weir tells ESPN 2’s Keith Olbermann. ‘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.’
Although Weir is openly gay, the three-time US national champion in men’s figure skating says he is an athlete first.
‘Before a gay man, before a white man, I am an Olympian,’ says Weir. ‘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,’ he adds.
Weir, who wore a Russian military uniform to the interview, plans to perform in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the end of the month – the city where the anti-gay propaganda law originated.
‘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 says.
But he admits to some fears: ‘I could be beat up on the street and no one would protect me because I’m gay. Those things are scary.’
If he makes the US team, Weir says that as a high-profile gay man his presence in Sochi ‘would be to empower the LGBT community of Russia and to make them realize that I am gay. 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.’
‘What we need to do is be there, to be strong and to be united,’ adds Weir. ‘We have to show (Russian President Vladimir) Putin who we are, what we’re about.’
Weir finished sixth at the 2010 games in Vancouver.