Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Sochi 2014: Was injured Evgeni Plushenko told to compete by Russian skating federation?

updated 12:20 PM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Evgeni Plushenko tells CNN he was told to skate despite suffering from a back injury
  • Russian pulled out from the men's individual competition before he was due to skate the short program
  • Skater then backtracks: "I want to make clear that the federation put no pressure on me"
  • Plushenko made his Olympic debut in Salt Lake City in 2002

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- The golden boy of Russian Winter Olympic sports Evgeni Plushenko is at the center of a whodunnit mystery in Sochi.

Was the four-time Olympian told to compete by the Russian skating federation despite suffering from a back problem?

The 31-year-old pulled out of the men's individual competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace because of the injury, on which he has had multiple operations -- just before he was due to skate the short program. Earlier in the Games, he helped Russia to team gold.

In an interview with CNN's Amanda Davies, Plushenko said officials had asked him to skate, despite the potential risk and that he had offered to give up the one space eligible in the competition to Russia to a fellow athlete.

Asked in a question if he had been forced to skate, Plushenko replied: "That's right," adding that he had wanted to compete but that he simply couldn't.

"I tried," he told CNN. "When we came to the team event everybody understands, OK we can win silver or bronze. We came first and won the Olympic Games. So after that the federation says: 'OK do you want to skate, how do feel?'

"Well, I feel not so good. I feel a problem in the long program of the team event, I missed two jumps -- a triple salko and a triple loop.

"I feel the muscles are sore. I explained to my federation, that maybe somebody else is going to skate. I asked them. They said ... well, what happened, happened."

Shortly after, the 31-year-old announced his retirement from skating.

National tragedy

Plushenko's story has read like a national tragedy in the Russian media, and he said the answers to questions over his pullout would eventually come from the president of Russia's figure skating federation Alexander Gorshkov.

The federation was not immediately available for comment.

"I'm not able to say right now what happened," said Plushenko.

"If you ask the president of the Russian federation, he's going to explain everything. He's going to explain why I tried to skate, why I didn't skate against the other skaters."

Later on Monday, Plushenko backtracked on the version of events he gave in the CNN interview.

Oshie plays hero as U.S. defeats Russia
The dark past of Sochi, Russia

"I want to make clear that the federation put no pressure on me," Plushenko said in a statement posted on the website of the Russian figure skating federation, citing his poor English for the confusion over the reasons for his withdrawal.

"I don't speak English fluently so my answers could have been incorrectly interpreted. I also could not always understand the sense and nuance of the questions," he said.

In an interview with Russia's Sovietsky Sport on Saturday, Plushenko said he had offered to step back in favor of Maxim Kovtun after the team competition but the 18-year-old was nowhere to be found and turned out to be unwell.

"They did not find him immediately and then it turned out that he was ill. And they told me, 'You can carry on skating'. I tried to do everything for the country, for the sport," he told Sovietsky Sport.

So, Russia had no representation in the men's individual competition.

Plushenko's wife Yana Rudkovskaya has become involved in the controversy, criticizing journalists for writing "rubbish" about her husband, who is due to see a specialist about his back after the Winter Olympics.

"Stop putting pressure on Yevgeny and all his family, it's already simply impossible," she said.

Rudkovskaya's intervention followed criticism of Plushenko from the likes of triple Olympic gold medalist and pro-Kremlin lawmaker Irina Rodnina, and outspoken lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky -- who told state television: "Kovtun is shoved aside while this invalid has brought shame on us."

Plushenko made his Olympic debut at Salt Lake City in 2002, winning silver, before taking gold in Turin four years later and picking up another silver in Vancouver in 2010.

Gay rights

Meanwhile the skater also hinted he could use his prominent position to help change Russia's approach to gay rights.

Russian lawmakers' passage last year of legislation known as the anti-gay propaganda bill makes it illegal to discuss homosexuality in front of children.

Plushenko insisted, "It's not my job," when asked about the current law but added:

"Maybe I can change something. If I can do something I am open. I know many people who are not traditional orientation. Maybe I can help, maybe not. We'll see, we're going to work in this direction."

Read: Teen ice skater makes history

Read: The Olympics is their playground

Blog: Superpower showdown on ice

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:05 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
With the Olympic cauldron now extinguished, CNN takes a look at whether Russia's $50 billion Sochi budget was money well spent.
updated 9:40 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
The athletes on show in Sochi provided moments of drama and destiny that captured the imagination and settled in the collective memory.
updated 11:15 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Russia may have topped the medals table at the first Winter Olympics it staged, but which country was most successful per capita?
updated 11:48 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
From eye-popping helmet designs to F1-influenced bobsleigh, the Sochi offered a bewildering array of technological innovation.
updated 6:46 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Sochi's closing ceremony took an artistic look at Russian culture before the Olympic flag was handed over to South Korea for the 2018 Games.
updated 1:57 PM EST, Sun February 23, 2014
Critics say it would have been cheaper to coat this Russian road with caviar but will the route made for Sochi reap long-term rewards?
updated 7:06 AM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
Navigate your way around this spectacular 360-degree picture from Sochi's ski-jumping venue at the Winter Olympics -- and find out how it was created.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
Sochi's transformation has left even the local cab drivers a bit lost and confused -- but don't let that put you off visiting this rejuvenated Black Sea resort.
updated 12:59 PM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Australia's silver medalist Torah Bright celebrates during the Women's Snowboard Halfpipe Medal Ceremony at the Sochi medals plaza during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 13, 2014.
What do you get if you mix Valentine's Day, thousands of good-looking young Olympians and a popular online dating app?
updated 7:11 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
For a Winter Olympics, there are some very colorful characters from some very tropical climates taking part -- including this "Mariachi" skier.
updated 6:03 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
If snowboarders were an introduction to a younger, hipper, "slacker" generation of Olympians, the next wave has taken it to another level.
updated 6:52 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
He didn't like carpets, he banned portraits and he walked in water rather than swim. Welcome to Joseph Stalin's dacha.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
ebanon's Jackie Chamoun skis during the Women's Giant slalom first run at the 2013 Ski World Championships in Schladming, Austria on February 14, 2013.
Like most skiers in Sochi, Jacky Chamoun had hoped to cause a stir on the slopes rather than off them.
updated 5:14 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
A prop from the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
It has been dubbed Russia's Las Vegas. But has Sochi's massive renovation come at a cost to the region's stunning natural environment?
updated 12:33 PM EST, Sun February 23, 2014
Take a different look at Sochi 2014 as CNN showcases the most compelling images from the world's best photographers.
ADVERTISEMENT