Updated: Monday, 17 February 2014 22:15 | By Agence France-Presse

Plushenko backtracks on 'forced to skate' claim

Russian figure skating icon Yevgeny Plushenko on Monday backtracked on a claim that his federation had forced him to skate while injured at the Sochi Olympics, in a controversy that shows little sign of dying down.

Plushenko backtracks on 'forced to skate' claim

Russian figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko takes part in a warm-up session during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 13, 2014 - by Yuri Kadobnov

Plushenko, 31, dramatically pulled out with a back injury from the men's individual competition, just before he was due to skate the short programme, after helping Russia to team gold earlier in the Games.

Many Russian commentators have slammed his decision to skate in the individual and said he should have pulled out earlier to allow his younger rival Maxim Kovtun, 18, to take part.

Asked by CNN in an interview broadcast Monday if he had been forced to skate Plushenko replied "that's right".

"The federation said 'do you want to skate?' and I said 'I feel not so good... (it would be) better if someone else is going to skate'."

"I asked them and they said 'what happened, happened'" he added.

But in a statement posted on Monday on the website of the Russian figure skating federation, Plushenko said: "I want to make clear that the federation put no pressure on me."

He said the misunderstanding was due to language problems in the interview.

"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 added.

However Plushenko had made similar remarks to domestic media, saying he had offered to step back in favour of Kovtun after the team competition but the young skater was nowhere to be found and turned out to be ill.

"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 on Saturday.

As usual with the high-profile Plushenko, the saga has gone well beyond the sport of figure skating with Russian politicians piling in to express an opinion.

Plushenko's wife Yana Rudkovskaya took to Twitter on Monday to lambast journalists for writing "rubbish" about her husband and tell the press to leave him in peace.

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

After the Olympics, Plushenko is due to travel to see a specialist about his back, the federation said.

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