BY DAVID PICHLER
I was fortunate enough to represent the United States as a diver in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympic Games. This week I’m going to the Olympics again. I’ll be in Sochi cheering on Team USA and supporting America’s LGBT athletes as well as the Russian LGBT community.
In June 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed a bill banning LGBT “propaganda,” which threatens the human rights of the millions of LGBT Russians. It violates their freedom of speech and, if widely enforced, could amount to de facto criminalization. It also endangers the lives of LGBT Russians. Anti-LBGT violence, often committed by neo-Nazis, is a major problem in Russia, and the “propaganda” law legitimizes the hate in hate crime.
It gets worse: President Putin is depicting LGBT people as pedophiles, and new anti-LGBT laws are surfacing. LGBT Russians — who until only a few years ago were beginning to be able to live openly — face increasing fears that their sexual identity will get them in legal or physical trouble.
As a gay American, I can’t imagine what gay Russians are going through. Although not to the same degree, I also have undergone discrimination based on my sexuality. Before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, a former coach — in an act of vindictiveness — outed me in attempt to destroy my Olympic dream.
David Pichler was an Olympic Team Captain and diver in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Summer Games. He lives in Fort Lauderdale.