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Accueil > Média > Revue de presse > Associated Press (20 août 2004)


Most gay athletes still not ready to tell
A few have come out, but many Olympians fear reaction and keep secret

By David Crary / Associated Press

ATHENS, GREECE -U.S. equestrian Robert Dover is among the rarest of all 10,500 athletes in Athens, not only for his six Olympic appearances but because he is one of a tiny handful of competitors who publicly identifies himself as gay.

Dover - along with some prominent ex-Olympians who came out after retiring - believe there are scores of other gay and lesbian athletes in an array of sports at these Summer Games, either fully in the closet or confiding only to a small circle of people.

Gays and lesbians might be able to marry in a few European countries, and now Massachusetts, but it's another era on the Olympic field of play.

Dover, a three-time bronze medalist who is captain of the dressage team, said many gay athletes simply want to stay focused on their performance and worry that publicizing their sexual orientation could lead to distractions.

"But there also are many athletes afraid to come out because of their peers, or their coaches or their loved ones having negative feelings,'' Dover said. "We have to keep on showing the world that - just like straight people - we're going about our lives, doing the very best we can to make our country and our families proud.''

Mark Tewksbury, who came out as gay six years after winning a gold medal for Canada in the backstroke in 1992, says Dover is lucky to compete in a sport considered unusually accepting of gays and lesbians.

Swimming - like most other Olympic sports - is different, Tewksbury said. He recalled his anguish at lacking the nerve to object, and reveal his sexual orientation, when teammates used "fag'' as their insult of choice.

"I got so tired of lying, of living a double life, I felt like I was going to die,'' said Tewksbury, 36, who is in Athens covering the Olympics for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "I was afraid of being beaten up, afraid my coach would stop coaching me, afraid my teammates would reject me.''

Tewksbury has become an activist, campaigning for athletes' rights in general and specifically promoting programs - such as a planned 2006 OutGames in Montreal- to encourage gay athletes.

Among his occasional colleagues is Holly Metcalf, a gold-medalist U.S. rower in 1984. Metcalf, 46, lives near Boston with her 4-year-old daughter and her partner of nine years, whom she plans to wed now that Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriages.

Metcalf said it is unfortunate, though understandable, that so many gay Olympians are reluctant to come out.

"It often comes down to financial considerations,'' she said in a telephone interview. "You've got so many women moving into collegiate sports, with a lot more money there now, and you have lesbian coaches who think, `Oh, my God, if anybody finds out, I'll get fired.' Colleges don't want to deal with this.''

Through it all, many gay Olympians remain cautious - most won't come out until there are gay gold medalists saying, "Hey, don't be afraid,'' Metcalf said.




29 Jul 2006
29 Jul 2006