Count Canadian long track speed skater Anastasia Bucsis among those who won't be silenced ahead of the Sochi Olympics, as Russia's laws concerning gay people draw scrutiny.
It was announced on Wednesday that the Calgary native is joining forces with Athletes Ally, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote respect for individuals involved in sports regardless of their sexual orientation.
"Taking on an advocacy role seems natural, because I am proud to be both an athlete and gay," Bucsis said in a press release. "I started speed skating at the age of four, and wasn't aware of any other gay skaters when growing up; during my 'coming out' I was very anxious and lonely because I lacked having an ‘out’ athletic role model. I didn't have any other gay athletic friends, or any mentors that I could readily turn to for advice or support. I am ready to help any athlete out there who is considering coming out of the closet. It's the best decision I ever made."
Bucsis, 24, announced she was a lesbian on her Twitter feed during Pride festivities in her city earlier this month.
"I'm proud to be from Calgary, I'm proud to be an athlete, and I'm proud to be gay," she said in the Sept. 1 tweet.
Bucsis made the Olympic squad at the age of 20, competing at 500 metres at the Vancouver Games. She finished 20th at the distance in the 2012-13 World Cup season standings.
Bucsis told the Globe and Mail she was compelled to announce she was gay in the wake of Russian laws which would punish anything deemed to be propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations, particularly with respect to there effects on those under 18 years old.
The legislation has prompted criticism from athletes, entertainers and international observers.
The International Olympic Committee has said it's received assurances from Russia that it will respect the Olympic charter, which promises athletes will not be discriminated against. But the charter also states athletes shall not engage in political or protest demonstrations of any kind.
Athletes Ally also announced Wednesday that 20-year-old Australian snowboarder Beth Brockhoff has joined the effort.
The organization claims 100 athletes encompassing 17 sports as ambassadors, including U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach, retired athletes Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova, and Robbie Rogers, the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder who announced he was gay in February.
Rogers and Louganis, among others, have been vocal in their view that boycotting the Sochi Games is not the ideal response to the uncertain situation.
New Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, who serves on the board of You Can Play, an organization with similar objectives, has condemned the Russian law as "repugnant" and said he won't shy away from saying as much in Russia. Burke will be at the Sochi Olympics as part of the management team for the U.S. men's hockey team.