The defence ministry on Wednesday signed a cooperation protocol with the Cyprus Sports Federation (Koa) for facilitating athletes carrying out their military service in exchange for it not granting health cards to draft dodgers.
The protocol follows a law recently passed by the House plenum which provides that no sports health cards will be issued to athletes discharged from military service due to mental illnesses.
Minister Savvas Angelides said the law in question was deemed necessary to clamp down on draft dodging among athletes since it was not uncommon for athletes to feign a mental Illness so that they can be exempt from military service when they were called up.
“It was an alarming problem since the situation did not improve not even after military service was reduced to 14 months,” Angelides said.
He explained when the time had come for athletes to sign up with the National Guard, they would go to psychiatrists and have themselves exempted from military service due to mental illnesses.
Men who suffer from mental illness or serious physical conditions are exempt from military service.
The law in question concerns both athletes who were either temporarily discharged after being deemed unfit to serve or who were given postponement of military service due to some form of mental illness.
Koa is obliged to apply the law so that health cards are not issued or renewed for the athletes in question, the minister said.
He added that the defence ministry, in its turn, agreed to facilitate athletes doing their military service to exercise regularly and provide other facilities so that they do not fall behind in their sports performance or advancement.
Angelides gave reassurances that his ministry will actively support athlete-conscripts so that they miss no opportunity as regards their sports career while serving their country.
The minister said that avoiding military service under false pretences should not be considered an act of bravado.
“Service to the country is a duty and is beneficial time spent productively and creatively,” he said.
Athletes who carry out their military service will benefit from a number of regulations, he said, while those who did not enlist or have no intention of doing so, will bear the consequences of their actions.