Gay U.S. Olympian on Russian Games: 'I Won't Stop Being Myself'

PHOTO: Johnny Weir of United States skates in the Men Short Program during ISU Rostelecom Cup of Figure Skating 2012 at the Megasport Sports Center, Nov. 9, 2012 in Moscow.
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As homophobia intensifies in Russia, where gay rights activists are regularly beaten in front of the police, a famed, openly gay American figure skater has said that he will not censor who he is when he heads to Sochi, Russia, to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Just weeks ago, Russia passed a law making it illegal to speak about homosexuality in front of children, or even display a rainbow flag in public. The new law puts 2008 world bronze medalist Johnny Weir in a difficult position as he prepares for the 2014 games.

"This law is a tragedy for the LGBT community in Russia," Weir told ABC News.

Weir, 28, is not only openly gay, but he is a longtime aficionado of all things Russian: his husband is Russian, he speaks the country's language, and he is a huge fan of that country's figure skaters. He said that he is undeterred by the new law.

"I'll take proper precautions, but at the same time, I won't stop being myself," he said. "I won't stop being Johnny Weir, the gay, fabulous ice skater person walking down the street."

The new anti-gay law was championed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has gone to great lengths to position himself as manly man, famously posing bare-chested and riding motorcycles.

RELATED: The Life of Vladimir Putin

Initially, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it had been assured by the government that athletes and spectators would be immune from the new law.

"This legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi," the IOC said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

On Thursday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko went on television and said that Olympians and their fans could be fined, deported or even jailed.

"No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable," Mutko told R-Sport.

But today, Igor Ananskikh, deputy chairman of Russia's Duma's Physical Culture, Sport and Youth Policy Committee, signaled that the country now plans to reverse course on the matter.

"The Olympic Games is a major international event. We need to be as polite and tolerant as possible. That is why a decision has been made not to raise this issue during the Olympics," he told Russian non-governmental news agency Interfax.

Meanwhile, protests against the new law have gone global. Actress Tilda Swinton released a picture of herself in front of the Kremlin with a rainbow flag. In the U.S., activists are calling for a boycott of Russian vodka, and possibly the games themselves -- an idea Weir says would only hurt athletes such as him.

"I've seen my parents sacrifice thousands of dollars, thousands of hours of their lives as I was trying to strive for the Olympic Games," he said. "The Olympics are the athletes' life. It's our livelihood."

ABC News' Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

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