(USA TODAY) The USA will not send a presidential delegation to the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi because of host Russia's military action in nearby Ukraine.
"In addition to other measures we are taking in response to the situation in Ukraine, the United States will no longer send a Presidential Delegation to the upcoming Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Monday. "President Obama continues to strongly support all of the U.S. athletes who will participate in the Paralympics and wishes them great success in the Olympic competition."
The Games run March 7-16 in the same area as last month's Winter Olympics.
Patrick Sandusky, chief communications and public affairs officer of the United States Olympic Committee, said the USOC had been advised of the decision by the White House. "We encourage all Americans to support our athletes by watching them compete on NBC, NBCSN and on TeamUSA.Org," Sandusky said in a statement. "As a sports organization, we will continue to fully support the amazing men and women that comprise Team USA at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, and we encourage all Americans to support our athletes by watching them compete on NBC, NBCSN and on TeamUSA.org."
The delegation, which was announced on Feb. 7, was to be led by Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.Other members: Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor; Dr. Celeste A. Wallander, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director, Russia and Central Asia, National Security Council Staff; Anthony Robles, member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; Sandra Dukat, U.S. three-time Paralympian bronze medalist; Brian Mosteller, Director, Oval Office Operations, The White House.
British government officials will also boycott the Games, according to aNew York Timesreport that said Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, Prince Edward, a patron of the British Paralympic Association, had canceled a planned trip to attend the Games "on the advice of government."
The presidential delegation to last month's Winter Games in Sochi also made news. Obama selected three openly gay former athletes - figure skater Brian Boitano, tennis player Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow - to be part of the official party. It was seen as a direct shot at Russia's anti-gay legislation that became a flashpoint for controversy before and during the Games.
The delegation did not include the president, first lady or the vice president, all who headed the previous four Olympic delegations, or a cabinet secretary, only a former one.
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