Don’t Penalize Athletes For Politics – US Olympian Ruggiero

Angela Ruggiero, member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), arrives for an Executive Board meeting in Pully near Lausanne, Switzerland, December 6, 2017. REUTERS / Denis Balibouse

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NEW YORK, Dec. 6 (Reuters) – Four-time Olympian Angela Ruggiero on Monday greeted with relief the announcement of the US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games, delighted that there was no suggestion that the athletes should also stay apart.

Ruggiero, who won ice hockey gold for the United States in 1998 and later served as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said it was important that athletes were not penalized for political reasons. .

“My first reaction was a bit of relief that it wasn’t anything more dramatic,” Ruggiero told Reuters by phone.

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“You know, you work your whole life to compete and you never want politics to get in the way of that chance.

“President Biden and others, obviously, wanted to make a statement and use the levers they had without affecting the athletes, so I think that’s what we saw in this diplomatic boycott.”

Officials said Monday that US President Joe Biden would not send government officials to the next Winter Olympics due to human rights “atrocities” in China. Read more

White House press secretary Jen Psaki added, however, that the athletes would have the full support of the government, and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) issued a statement claiming the team would surrender. in China.

Large-scale nationwide withdrawal from the Olympics has been rare since the 1980 Summer Games were severely affected by political protests.

The United States led 66 countries to withdraw from the 1980 Moscow Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, while the Communist Bloc responded similarly to the four Los Angeles Olympics. years later.

“I heard stories of boycott in 1980s and 84s and what it did to athletes who couldn’t participate,” Ruggiero said.

“Can we have these more difficult conversations without penalizing the athletes at the end of the day? … I think this is the happy medium.

Earlier this year, US Olympians expressed concern over China’s human rights record, after rights groups and US lawmakers called on the IOC to postpone the Games or relocate the event. Read more

Ruggiero, CEO of sports and tech company Sports Innovation Lab, said there are ways other than boycott for athletes to make their point known, although they shouldn’t feel pressured to. do it.

“Some athletes might just want to show up and compete and not have to think about anything other than their competition, others might see this as their platform to affect change in a broader way than just their performance,” she declared.

“Athletes need to treat these Olympics in the way that’s best and convenient for them, and know that everyone is mindful of their safety.”

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Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Nick Mulvenney / Peter Rutherford

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Naomi C. Amerson