12/02/2014 07:26 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST

Canadian Olympic Committee offers new support to LGBT athletes

The Canadian Olympic Committee has announced its support for LGBT athletes in an agreement with You Can Play and Egale Canada, two North American anti-homophobia groups.

The agreement includes training and support for Olympic athletes who want to come out.

It's described as "the most wide-reaching such agreement by a national Olympic committee."

COC chief executive Chris Overholt told CBC News on Tuesday that the committee's responsibility is to create an environment "where athletes and coaches feel safe always."

"This partnership will set us up to tackle some of the issues related to LGBTQ issues, taking the conversation to another level within the sports community," Overholt said.

Sexual orientation became a source of controversy before the Sochi Olympics when Russia passed a controversial new anti-gay law in 2013 that banned "propaganda" involving "non-traditional sexual relations" around minors.

President Vladimir Putin said gay visitors to the country had nothing to fear, as long as they stayed away from children.

"One can feel calm and at ease," the Washington Post quoted him as saying. "Just leave kids alone, please."

Overholt said that while the COC chose not to take any action immediately before Sochi, it did resolve to act in a more thoughtful and methodical way.

"We chose not to take the action at that moment," he said, "but we promised ourselves when the time was right, we would come back to it in an informed way. And certainly our partnership with You Can Play and with Egale — that is set to do important work in the future."

The new initiatives will become a key part of the existing Canadian Olympic school program, he said, with its "messages of fair play, equality, diversity."