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Calgary gay bar sponsors Canadian speed skater Denny Morrison

Denny Morrison of Canada skates past the Olympic rings during speed skating team practice at the Adler Arena in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, February 2, 2014.

PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

Competing in a country that has come under fire for its law restricting gay-rights activity, Canadian long-track speed skater Denny Morrison gives thanks for sponsors that include a Calgary gay bar.

But he wasn't about to make it a talking point Tuesday in Russia.

With just days before the start of the Sochi Olympics, talk of his support from the bar Twisted Element was clearly coming too close to Olympic rules on sponsorship, not to mention the ongoing debate over the controversial Russian law.

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"It's not something that's come recently. They've sponsored me for the last couple of seasons," Morrison, who was reluctant to go into detail about the matter, said when asked about the support.

"Ultimately I have many sponsors. They're one of them. I'm really grateful for all of my sponsors but right now I'm focused on my performance."

The bar's website features a photo of Morrison in action with the headline: "Twisted Element: A Proud Sponsor" and a link to a local newspaper story on the sponsorship. The bar has pulled Russian vodka from its stock to protest the country's law.

The IOC has reminded athletes to comply with Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter, that says: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

IOC president Thomas Bach has said that while athletes cannot demonstrate on the podium, they are free to express their opinions at news conferences.

Sochi organizing committee leader Dmitry Chernyshenko initially disagreed, saying athletes could not speak out at press conferences, but later changed his stance.

Morrison, a 10-year veteran competing a his third Olympics, will be cheered on by a large group of friends and family here including his girlfriend.

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A 28-year-old native of Fort St. John, B.C., who lives in Calgary, Morrison is a two-time world champion in the 1,500 metres. He won a silver medal from the team pursuit from the 2006 Olympics in Turing and gold from the team pursuit in Vancouver in 2010.

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