One high-ranking Russian official is questioning the circumstances regarding the arrest of Semyon Varlamov.
Details are still hazy after Varlamov, the starting goalie for the Colorado Avalanche, was arrested Wednesday in Denver on kidnapping and assault charges. Early reports indicated that the incident was domestic in nature, and the accuser’s attorney alleged that Varlamov “threw [his girlfriend] into the wall, she went to the floor, and he was stomping on her.”
There are some, however, who think that Varlamov may be the target of some backroom espionage. Igor Ananskykh is the head of Russia’s State Duma Committee for Physical Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs, and he is none too pleased with how Varlamov — a hopeful for the 2014 Russian Olympic team — has been treated.
“The situation is really strange,” Ananskykh said, “given that the Sochi Olympics will take place soon and Varlamov is a candidate to become part of our national hockey team which we do count on. What about presumption of innocence? It’s not normal at all.”
“Varlamov will fall out of the training process which will have an impact on his readiness before the Olympics in Sochi,” Ananskykh added. “The first thing that comes to my mind is that it is an effort to weaken our national team.”
Russia hasn’t hosted an Olympiad since 1908. The anticipation for the event is immense, and hockey, as Russia’s most popular sport, is the focus of that attention. Russian fans — and apparently officials — are nervously expecting strong performances from stars like Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk.
Varlamov was expected to fight reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky for the starting job. As part of a surprising Colorado team, Varlamov has gone 7-1 with a .924 save percentage and a 1.76 GAA to start the season — all marks better than Bobrovsky’s.
Russia is slated to play within Group A at the 2014 Olympics. And if this all seems too much like Cold War-era subterfuge — Russia will share the round-robin preliminary grouping with Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.
Photo via Twitter/@DenverPolice