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Speaker John Boehner: Do not boycott the Winter Olympics

Russia Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Olympic Fisht stadium, left, and Bolshoi Ice Dome, right, were built to be used in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev)

House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday rebuffed Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham for suggesting that the U.S. should consider boycotting the upcoming Winter Olympics if fugitive spy Edward Snowden is allowed to remain in Russia.

“I love Senator Graham. We’ve been close friends for 20 years. But I think he’s dead wrong,” said Boehner, R-Ohio. “Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who have been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home?”

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia, the country where Snowden is currently hiding after releasing classified secrets on the U.S.’s extensive spying program. A boycott of the Olympics would be deja vu for the U.S., who joined dozens of other countries that didn’t participate in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow because of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

When asked by The Hill Tuesday if the U.S. should weigh another boycott if Russia refuses to turn Snowden over to the U.S., Graham said yes.

“I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them,” said Graham, R-S.C. “We certainly haven’t reset our relationship with Russia in a positive way. At the end of the day, if they grant this guy asylum, it’s a breach of the rule of law as we know it and is a slap in the face to the United States.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said “yeah” it would be a bad idea to boycott the games but insisted it wasn’t an issue the administration was looking into.

“I’m not going to engage in speculation about that, and the Olympics are a long way off,” Carney said.

One reason Boehner might not want the games to be canceled? Apparently he has a favorite sport in the quadrennial international event.

“I’m a luge guy,” Boehner said.