> In the October/November 1996 issue of International Figure
> Skating, on page 65, it says that Brian Boitano told Michael H. Hodges of
> the _Detroit Free Press and News_:
> "AIDS is a nonissue in skating. To this day I don't know a
> person with HIV in the skating ranks."
> Does anybody know if Boitano really said this, and in what
> context? If it is what it looks like, then I am quite disturbed.
Yes, he did. It was very recently, too. During this past Tour of
Champions. I got a copy of this in e-mail back when I was at my other
address. I believe I still have a hard copy of it somewhere. If you like,
I will look it up for you.
I found it upsetting myself. This was a man who skated in the first Skate
the Dream show as a tribute to Rob McCall. For him to say he never knew
any skater with HIV was, to me, like Peter in the Bible denying Jesus
Christ three times before the*** crew. How could he do that? And even
more amazingly, how could he say it thinking that no one would remember?
How could he not *want* us to remember?
>The statement "AIDS is a nonissue in skating" is a distortion. To
> say "Skating is not obsessed with AIDS, or more burdened with AIDS than
> other sports; AIDS usually does not interfere with the everyday business
> of training and competing" might make sense, but I don't understand the
> statement as attributed.
Me either. I think all male skaters are concerned about AIDS being seen as
just "a male skater problem" or "a gay problem." Brian Orser has said "You
don't get AIDS from skating" and "It's not just a gay disease." But I
can't imagine him (or any other skater, for that matter) conveniently
denying knowledge of either Rob in particular or the skaters they have
known in general who have been HIV-positive or who are dying or have died
of AIDS. They simply wanted it understood that AIDS is not just a problem
for skaters, or for gay men, and that people needn't fear skating or male
> What does Boitano mean by "to this day"? If he means he has
> never met a skater with HIV, that is a lie, since he has certainly known
> skaters who have died of AIDS. If he means actively competing, then he
> cannot phrase the statement as he has, because he has no way of knowing
> who does or does not have HIV unless they tell him. And if skating is
> like all other walks of American life, there are surprisingly large
> numbers of HIV-positive people who keep mum about their serostatus.
> _If_ Boitano really said this, I guess he is trying to combat the
> image that American figure skating is nothing but an AIDS ward...but I
> don't think blatant non-truths are the way to achieve that goal. Despite
> continuing advances in HIV medical research, HIV infection rates are still
> going to worsen before they improve, and it helps nobody to maintain an
> attitude of denial about it.
I agree. To me, "to this day" means "I never have, from the day I began
skating to this day"--not "*Today* I don't know anyone." And why would he
say "*Today* I don't know anyone" anyway--thus callously implying that the
threat was completely over?
I remember that in 1992, around the time of the first Skate the Dream, an
article came out in the Calgary Herald in which statements were made that
X percentage of male skaters are gay, and giving a specific number of
skaters who had died from AIDS-related diseases as determined by the
reporter from sources he had talked to--about 40 skaters, coaches, etc.,
all off the record of course. The article discussed the AIDS problem in
context of the Canadian skaters had died or were HIV positive, and John
Curry's then-recent announcement that he had AIDS.
I thought it was pretty balanced and sensitively done, and understood why
the reporter had trouble with getting sources to go on record with such
specific statements. But some skaters, including Brian Orser, Brian
Boitano and Paul Wylie, were quoted in the press as objecting to some
points made in the article. Orser's objection was that he felt the article
tried to single out all male skaters as gay or implied that AIDS was only
a gay problem. Boitano and Wylie, on the other hand, categorically denied
knowing any *American* skaters with HIV or AIDS, and said that the article
was a "witch hunt." They suggested, by their statements "I don't know any
American skaters..." that AIDS was only a *Canadian* or *European*
problem. Boitano said "I haven't met anyone that reporter talked to" (in
other words, he was saying he'd never met Brian Orser, because Orser was
quoted in the article!).
I feel Boitano and Wylie did this because they knew how foolish they would
look if they said at the time that they didn't know ANY skaters with the
disease. So they said they didn't know any *Americans.* Trouble is, it
gave their quotes the effect of seeming to say "AIDS isn't an *American*
problem--we're real sorry for all those Canadians and for John Curry, but
it's not in our back yard. And don't you dare say it is, because if you do
Joe Sixpack and his family will believe it and won't come to our shows
I find it very disturbing that after only a few years, Brian Boitano seems
to be hoping that we will all forget he ever met or had anything to do
with Rob McCall.
> As an AIDS activist I am unhappy with the message of stigma and
> invisibility that comments like these send to people with AIDS. And if
> Boitano is making the point that there are no skaters with HIV, then what
> if a skater goes public about being positive? Does that suddenly destroy
> Boitano's description of AIDS as a "nonissue"? I conclude that the
> subtext of Boitano's message feels like, "And if any of you skaters out
> there really do have HIV, either keep out or shut up, for the good of the
Like I say, it's too late. He knew Rob. Rob died. Brian Boitano skated in
his tribute show. Yet these several years later, Brian seems to feel he
can hide the very knowledge that he ever knew Rob and get away with it.
> I imagine Boitano was trying to do good by this statement. But I
> think it would do a lot more good for the world to see HIV-positive
> athletes admitting their serostatus and leading happy, healthy athletic
> Lorrie Kim
I agree. But it seems that some skaters are *very* nervous about having it
known that they were even friends with a skater who had HIV or died in an
AIDS-related way--once it is no longer convenient or once it threatens
their own image. That's my theory, at least. I find it very sad and