Israeli law making it tougher for athletes to shine, report claims

(JTA) — Israel’s sports law significantly reduces the chances for its athletes to excel, a new study concluded.


The study by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies was released Tuesday.  Israel failed to win any medals at the recently completed London Olympics — the first time in 24 years that the country’s athletes came home empty handed from the Games.

Yarden Gazit, a Jerusalem Institute fellow and the report’s author, said the sports law contains measures that are extremely costly for aspiring athletes and dissuade many from competing in areas where they might be able to excel on the international level.

“While any observer would encourage prudence when it comes to ensuring that athletes are healthy and fit enough to compete,” Gazit said in a statement, “Israel seems to be practicing an unnecessary level of caution which makes competing impossible for those athletes without the financial means to cover these costs.”

The Sports Law of 1988 enacted by the Knesset requires athletes in an official competition, including children, to pass a yearly medical examination at a sports medicine clinic recognized by the Ministry of Health. Athletes aged 17 and older are required to take an exercise cardiac stress test. In addition, the law requires athletes to purchase accident insurance.

The report recommended easing requirements for adults’ medical exams, allowing children younger than 18 to compete in sports with the approval of a family doctor, and allowing sports federations to recognize collective insurance policies such as those of schools and universities, thereby saving parents and athletes unnecessary insurance payments.

Corrine Sauer, the Jerusalem Institute’s president, said that a change in Israeli policies could lead to a significant increase in athletic participation throughout the country.

“This report concludes that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of our national athletic potential,” Sauer said in a statement. “There is no better time than now to reassess our approach to sports and with such a re-evaluation, Israel could certainly add significant athletic achievement on the international level to our growing list of remarkable national accomplishments.”

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