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Homophobia dampens Olympic spirit

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Homophobia reared its ugly head at the Winter Olympics, with flamboyant American figure skater Johnny Weir and other male skaters as the main target.

Weir, who has not publicly declared that he is gay, is nonetheless a lightning rod for rumors about his sexuality. He is known for his flashy costumes that have included pink ribbons and feathers. Some commentators have cruelly suggested that his performances are more suited for the women’s competition, not the men’s, in an attack on his style of skating and his masculinity.

On Australia's Channel Nine, two hosts joked on air about the masculinity of Weir and other male skaters, drawing complaints from viewers.

But the worst slurs came from Alain Goldberg and Claude Mailhot, two Canadian broadcasters from the French language RDS network, during a program that was broadcast on Feb. 17.

Some of the comments attributed to the French Canadian pair include these:

“We should make him pass a gender test at this point.”

“All boys that skate will end up like him.”

The Quebec Council of Gays and Lesbians filed a complaint against the sportscasters.

“For the council, it is unacceptable for a sports commentator to mock and denigrate an athlete because of his appearance,” it said in a statement, adding that the broadcaster’s comments “perpetuate biases toward homosexuals.”

Former Olympic figure skating champion Dorothy Hamill, who has been attending the Vancouver Games as a fan, coach and mentor, was among many public figures who condemned the two Canadian broadcasters for their homophobic remarks.

"The comment is so inappropriate that we will not even justify it with a response," U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said.

Weir’s agent Tara Modlin said the skater was aware of the furor.

The veteran broadcasters later apologized on air for their comments.

To read GLADD's blog on this issue, click here.