When gay athletes come out publicly, one of the things they almost always say is that they performed better than when they were closeted. The latest example comes from former British Olympic canoeist Matt Lister.
"The reason I came out was that I heard this little niggling voice in my head, saying 'you're not quite being honest with yourself,’ " he told the Evening Standard. "When I was on the water I never felt like I was lying to people but that I wasn't truly being a representation of myself on the water. When I came out, it just lifted this enormous weight and this huge storm cloud that I felt was gathering around me. It made me so much more comfortable on the water. I could focus on what I was doing. My results ended up improving because of that."
It seems obvious that no longer having to hide will allow an athlete to focus, yet some LGBT athletes who are in a position to come out nonetheless feel they would become a "distraction." But Lister's experience mirrors what we've seen in other sports.
Lister, who is now a model and spokesman for a group fighting homophobia, came out in 2012 and said he thinks other athletes are very supportive.
"I don't think there's that much of an issue with the athletes," he said. "People respect you when you are at a certain level. It doesn't matter who you are, it matters what you do in your sport."
As for being labeled, Lister had a simple yet effective answer: "Some people brand me as a gay athlete, I just thought of myself as an athlete who was gay."