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Hayley Wickenheiser joins athletes’ criticism of Russia’s anti-gay laws

Canadian National Women's hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, from Shaunavon, Sask., speaks to a reporter a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Monday, May 27, 2013.

The Canadian Press

Canadian women's hockey team captain Hayley Wickenheiser has added her voice to athletes' criticism of Russia's anti-gay laws heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

With the Games less than half a year away, attention has turned to a new Russian law signed by President Vladimir Putin which imposes fines on people who spread "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors and proposes penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media.

Foreign citizens arrested under the law can be jailed for 15 days and then deported.

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Wickenheiser of Shaunavon, Sask., will be a six-time Olympian in Sochi.

"I think most athletes in the free world think it's wrong what Russia has done," Wickenheiser said Tuesday in Calgary. "The Olympics is really one of the only places in the world where people should be free to get along and perform in harmony.

"It's about acceptance so it kind of goes against everything that the Olympics are about. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

Canadian athletes are participating in Pride festivals this summer with the backing of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

COC president Marcel Aubut has said the athletes' participation symbolizes that sport should be open to all regardless of race, religion, creed or sexual orientation.

Alpine skier and 2010 Olympian Mike Janyk and two-time Olympian snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll marched Sunday in Vancouver's Pride Parade. Several Olympians participated in Toronto's Pride Parade on June 30.

"It makes me feel proud to be a Canadian, to live in a country that strives for equality, whether it's race, religion or sexual orientation," Wickenheiser said.

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"As far as we're concerned, we're going to the Games to perform and I guess to take the standards we uphold as Canadians and hopefully demonstrate that to the rest of the world.

"Obviously it's disappointing to hear something like that coming out of Sochi, but for me, it's really a human rights issue."

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