WASHINGTON -- Top U.S. elected officials will not be among the presidential delegation attending the Winter Games in Sochi, but prominent gay athletes will among those representing Washington, the White House said Tuesday.
The announcement of the official delegation follows weeks of speculation about whether the United States would join other world leaders, including German President Joachim Gauck, to protest human rights violations.
Gay rights groups had called on Obama to include prominent gay rights activists and athletes in the delegation to make a statement about Russia's laws targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
First lady Michelle Obama, who led the delegation to the 2012 Games in London, will not attend.
The U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies will be led by former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, who now heads the University of California system.
Tennis legend and gay rights activist Billie Jean King is among the delegation along with U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul; Robert Nabors, deputy White House chief of staff; and Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano.
Attending the closing ceremonies will be Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, McFaul, Olympic speed skating gold medalist Bonnie Blair, Olympic women's ice hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow and Olympic speed skating gold medalist Eric Heiden.
Cahow, who has come out as a lesbian, said in an interview with a website dedicated to LGBT athletes that gay athletes should not boycott the games, likening it to African-American Jesse Owens' participation in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
"I don't think any athletes are going to go over there just to protest Russian policy," she said. "That makes no sense. They're going to go over there because they want to compete."
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