RICHARD AMMON, a clinical psychologist in Laguna Beach, won five swimming medals in the 1994 Gay Games. He comments on Greg Louganis' disclosure that he has AIDS:
Greg Louganis kept a secret. Was it lying? Was it responsible?
If Louganis had disclosed his secret of being gay when he first realized it (probably around the age of 10), he would not have become the world-class performer he did. The mockery, shame, threats and social avoidance he would have endured would have overwhelmed him and eroded the confidence, dedication and courage it takes to become a superstar athlete. If he had disclosed his HIV status prior to the 1988 Olympics, he probably would not have been allowed to participate in the same pool as the other divers. The storm of exaggerated protest and fear, which we are now seeing in retrospect, would have isolated him as some kind of freak performer, perhaps having to dive alone so the water could then be "decontaminated."
It's too easy to judge Louganis at fault for not disclosing his status. The decision was not fully his own. A hostile culture intruded.
The specter of threats to one's own safety, physical and mental, are a real and constant concern for gay and lesbian Americans and especially for gay and lesbian athletes. Openly gay professional careers rarely survive the pressures and prejudices of the macho world of sport.