BY ANDREW DAMPF
AP SPORTS WRITER
ROME -- A senior Italian IOC member criticized the United States on Wednesday for including openly gay athletes in its official delegation for next month's Sochi Olympics.
"It's absurd that a country like that sends four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights have (been established)," Mario Pescante said at an Italian Olympic Committee meeting in Milan on Wednesday, in comments widely reported by Italian media. "The games should not be an occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports supports daily."
The Italian Olympic Committee would not confirm or deny Pescante's comments, but his speech was reported by the Gazzetta dello Sport and the ANSA news agency.
Asked for clarification later by The Associated Press, Pescante said he is not against gays.
"Of course not," the 75-year-old Pescante told The AP by telephone. "I just wanted to make the point not to let politics interfere with the Olympics."