Russian coach questions ‘American way of life’ as he reacts to non-binary skater scandal
Russian former ice dancing world champion Alexander Zhulin has questioned what ‘the American way of life’ is leading to, as he discussed his controversial comments about US non-binary figure skater Timothy LeDuc.
Zhulin, 58, made headlines when he replied that he “doesn’t want to discuss freaks” when asked about LeDuc, who identifies as neither male nor female and is set to become the first openly non-binary Winter Olympian at the Beijing Games in February.
LeDuc will line up in China in the figure skating pairs alongside partner Ashley Cain-Gribble.
Zhulin – an Olympic bronze and silver medalist who became a prominent coach and TV personality in his homeland after his retirement – is training Russian ice dance duo Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov for the Beijing showpiece.
But the build-up has seen Zhulin face criticism from the likes of Canadian Olympic champion Meagan Duhamel, who called on the ISU to take action following his “freaks” remark.
Speaking to KP Sport about the upcoming Games and the row over LeDuc, Zhulin played down his comments but still took aim at aspects of the Western world.
"When the fourth correspondent calls me in one day and asks me about a person with the surname ‘LeDuc’, I just don’t want to talk about it. I just blurted out ‘I don’t want to talk about freaks’, meaning ‘leave me alone’," Zhulin explained.
"And then it spread: ‘Zhulin calls non-binary skater a freak’. A lady from Canada immediately replied, Duhamel, and said I should apologize."
"What for?" the 58-year-old asked.
"OK, let’s call LeDuc a bearded lady. When LeDuc has a menstrual cycle, I’ll talk to her, and so, what is there to talk about: a big penis, a big beard. He doesn’t understand who he is. OK, let’s not call him a freak. He’s strange," Zhulin added.
"But this topic can develop further," Zhulin continued.
"What is it leading to? First of all a non-binary sportsperson, then pedophiles and rapists. Should we feel sorry for all of them? What will it lead to? A disaster. A dead end."
"Maybe I was rude calling LeDuc a freak," Zhulin admitted, "but think about it."
"Where are we heading? Where is this American way of life leading us?"
Zhulin then cited his faith as a factor behind his opinions.
"I can’t say that every day I bang my head on the floor about this, but I’m a religious person, God said adultery is very bad, he said 'do not steal'. The commandments are very simple," Zhulin stressed.
"And what’s happening now, what are the commandments! A man with a man, a man with an animal, pedophiles... It turns out that they’re all unfortunate people, and we have to look at them with tolerance."
"I don’t want to continue further, otherwise I’ll talk too much before the Olympics," Zhulin protested. "We started talking about figure skating, but came to this... But think about it!" he added.