Russian lawmaker pushes to restrict athletes to 2 Olympics
MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian parliament will consider a proposal to bar athletes from competing in more than two Olympics in a bid to keep older, injury-prone athletes from denying places to younger competitors.
The bill submitted by lawmaker Yegor Anisimov would amend Russian law to avoid a repeat of an incident at last year’s Sochi Winter Olympics when figure skater Evgeny Plushenko entered his fourth Olympics despite injury concerns before a back problem forced him to withdraw from the men’s competition at the last minute, when it was too late to replace him.
“There is no doubt that this athlete (Plushenko) knew about his health problems earlier on, but he didn’t remove his candidacy to compete at the Olympic Games, thus depriving other athletes of the chance to take part,” Anisimov said in a statement introducing the proposal.
“This will allow other, younger and no less talented athletes to take part in international competitions at such a high level.”
While the bill’s level of support is unclear, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist party of which Anisimov is a member, has backed a similar idea in the past.
However, it appears highly unlikely to become law, not least because several members of the Russian parliament are former Olympians, including ex-figure skater Irina Rodnina, who won gold at three different Olympics in a career that would have been curtailed by such a measure.
Should Anisimov’s proposal be adopted, it would block some Russian stars from competing at next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, including two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva. At the Sochi Olympics, one casualty would have been Alexander Zubkov, who carried the Russian flag at the opening ceremony of his fourth Olympics and went on to win two gold medals in bobsled.
Isinbayeva was sharply critical of the proposed limits.
“This proposal bears no relation to real life,” she told Russia’s Tass agency. “Any athlete has the right to compete for as long as they can qualify for the games.”
Plushenko, the skater who inspired the law and harbors a desire to come back and compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics, told Tass Anisimov’s idea was “inexplicable and inappropriate.”