By Nick Butler

The FIS were responding to calls to drop slopestyle from the Olympic programme following the high number of injuries sustained during Sochi 2014 ©Getty ImagesApril 14 - International Ski Federation (FIS) officials have hit back at claims slopestyle should be dropped from the Olympic programme following the high rate of injuries at Sochi 2014.

Lars Engebretsen, head of scientific activities at the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) medical and scientific department, had hit out last week at the high rate of injuries and the "potential" of it being removed from the programme as a result, even though it only made its debut at Sochi 2014. 

"Right now the injury rate as it was in Sochi was too high to be a sport that we have in the Olympics", he told the Associated Press during the World Conference on Injury and Illness in Sport in Monaco.

"To me it was unacceptably high, absolutely...very, very, very high.

"We are looking at the venues, the snow, the equipment they have, and there is a lot of concern," he said.

"There [are] a lot of discussions going on, both inside the IOC and at the governing body of skiing."

But speaking today to insidethegames, FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis hit back at these claims, which she insisted were "apparently personal comments which do not represent the position of the IOC".

She also described the good work being done to alleviate the risk of injuries in time for the sport's second appearance on the Olympic programme at Pyeongchang 2018. 

Lars Engebretsen was speaking on the sidelines of a World Conference on Injury and Illness in Sport in Monaco over the weekend ©Stéphane Danna/IOCLars Engebretsen was speaking on the sidelines of a World Conference on Injury and Illness in Sport in Monaco over the weekend ©IOC

"The protection of the athletes' health and the safety of the environment they are competing in are top priorities for the FIS and the IOC who work actively together on these important topics on an ongoing basis," she told insidethegames.

"Since 2008 FIS has implemented an injury surveillance system and each discipline and event is analysed in order to take additional measures to protect athletes where necessary.

"The goal is to try to reduce risks that can lead to injury, whilst retaining the characteristics of the discipline and event.

"In regard to the slopestyle events that took place in Sochi, it would be premature to comment on the quantity and quality of injuries that occurred as the full IOC Injury and Illness Surveillance Study conducted by the IOC Medical Commission has not yet been finalised."

There were a number of crashes resulting from training incidents during Sochi 2014.

Casualties included United States superstar Shaun White, who hurt his left wrist practising on the slopestyle course and pulled out of the competition to focus solely on the halfpipe discipline.

Another injury concerned Norwegian medal contender Torstein Horgmo, who was ruled out of the Games before they started after breaking his collarbone practising a difficult trick.

As head doctor for the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports, Engebretsen had a particular affiliation with Horgmo.

He insisted, however, that as the sport becomes more popular, the risk of injuries among recreational participants will become an even more important factor.

Norwegian snowboarder Torstein Horgmo, pictured in Sochi before his accident, was ruled out of the Games after a slopestyle injury ©Getty ImagesNorwegian snowboarder Torstein Horgmo, pictured in Sochi before his accident, was ruled out of the Games after a slopestyle injury ©Getty Images

On the other hand, it is important to note the number of slopestyle injuries in Sochi declined once the competition got underway and athletes became more used to the course.

By far the most serious injury of the Games was also sustained not in slopestyle but in ski-cross, where Maria Komissarova of Russia was left paralysed from the waist down after a horrific training accident. 

Given the popularity of slopestyle's Olympic bow, as well as the IOC's rhetoric on introducing new sports which appeal to young audiences, it is likely they will be reluctant to remove the sport from the programme, a decision which would be taken by the IOC ruling Executive Board.

The proposition has also been roundly criticised by athletes including US star Sage Kostsenburg, who won the first gold medal of Sochi 2014 in the sport and wrote on Twitter that taking slopestyle out of the Olympics for being too dangerous would be "absurd".