The White House has not made a final decision on whether the United States will take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, President Joe Biden’s spokeswoman said Thursday, even as some Republicans call for a boycott.
San Diego native Shaun White and Carlsbad resident Kaillie Humphries — both medal favorites in their events — would be among local athletes affected by the first U.S. boycott since 1980, when President Jimmy Carter pulled out of the Moscow Summer Games.
Republicans who have called either for a boycott or for the Olympics to be moved out of Beijing have cited a U.S. designation made under former President Trump that the Chinese government was perpetrating genocide against Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.
Speaking to reporters about U.S. participation in the Beijing Olympics, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “There hasn’t been a final decision made on that and, of course, we would look for guidance from the U.S. Olympic Committee.”
Psaki on Feb. 3 had signaled that the United States had no plans to boycott the Beijing Olympics, saying at the time: “We’re not currently talking about changing our posture or our plans as it relates to the Beijing Olympics.”
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said it had no comment on Psaki’s latest remarks, instead referring to a statement it issued on Feb. 3 opposing boycotts.
The USOPC’s earlier statement said, “We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and geopolitical issues.”
Human rights groups have urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take the Olympics out of China because of its treatment of Uighur Muslims along with other human rights concerns. China denies human rights abuses.
The last U.S. Olympic boycott came in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter refused to send American athletes to the Moscow Olympics amid Cold War tensions surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, seen as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, on Thursday became the latest politician in her party to call for a boycott. Haley wrote on Twitter: “The United States should not glorify a country that is committing genocide against its own people and threatening the world.”
Snowboarder White, 34, a Carlsbad High School graduate, struck Olympic gold in that event in 2006, 2010 and 2018, and was fourth in 2012. He has said he’ll skip the skateboarding event at the Tokyo Games this summer to focus on Beijing.
Bobsledder Humphries, 35, is a two-time Olympic champion who this winter won the inaugural women’s monobob world championship, increasing her career total to a record five world titles.
The women’s monobob will be an Olympic event for the first time at the 2022 Beijing Games.
Humphries, a Canadian native who represents Team USA, teamed with Lolo Jones to win the two-woman title Feb. 6, becoming the first woman to win four world bobsled championships. Humphries also won the 2012, 2013 and 2020 world championship in the two-woman event, the first two competing for Canada.
— Reuters contributed to this report.