Ole Einar Bjørndalen is skipping attending his home Winter Youth Olympics in order to focus upon altitude training ©Getty Images

There are growing concerns about the suitability of Norway's Ole Einar Bjørndalen as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after he decided to go altitude training rather than attending the Winter Youth Olympic Games in his home country. 

Bjørndalen, the eight-time Olympic and 19-time world biathlon champion, was elected onto the IOC Athletes' Commission for an eight-year term at Sochi 2014.

He had planned to retire following those Winter Olympics but subsequently decided to carry on with his career and now plans to retire after next month's World Championships in Oslo when he will be 42. 

Bjørndalen was present at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the IOC and the United Nations (UN) in New York City in April 2014 and attended the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly in Bangkok in October.

There, he was named Best Male athlete of Sochi 2014, where he won two gold medals. 

Since then he has missed the Extraordinary IOC Session in Monte Carlo in December 2014 and the Candidate City Briefing on the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic race in Lausanne in June 2015.

Even more importantly, he missed the following month's IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur where Beijing beat Almaty by four votes to host the Games.

He is one of five athletes elected to represent the interests of winter sports on the IOC Athletes' Commission. 

Bjørndalen's absence in the Malaysian capital was significant because most other officials associated with winter sport were thought to have preferred the Kazkahstan bid over that of the Chinese capital.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen attended the signing of an agreement between the IOC and the United Nations in April ©Getty Images
Ole Einar Bjørndalen attended the signing of an agreement between the IOC and the United Nations in April ©Getty Images

insidethegames understands that he has played very little active role within the Athletes' Commission.

He also stood down from his only other IOC role, on the Press Commission, in 2015.

Section 3.4 of the IOC Charter stipulates: "Any IOC member shall cease to be a member without any further declaration on his part if, subject to force majeure, such member fails to attend Sessions or to take any active part in the work of the IOC for two consecutive years."

The IOC announced ahead of the Session in Kuala Lumpur, however, that Bjørndalen had been given special dispensation to be excused from IOC activities until after he had finished competing.

"Ole Einar Bjørndalen wanted to pursue his outstanding career by taking part in several stages of the World Cup," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.

"He has been undertaking intensive training for that and asked to be excused from IOC duties.

"As a fellow athlete I understand this very well, especially since after this he will make himself fully available."

insidethegames understands that this dispensation remains in place and could be extended until next year if he decides to continue his career.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen with IOC President Thomas Bach during an IBU World Cup event in Oberhof in January 2015 ©Getty Images
Ole Einar Bjørndalen with IOC President Thomas Bach during an IBU World Cup event in Oberhof last year ©Getty Images

It still seems unsatisfactory, however, that he is unable to attend any part of these Winter Youth Olympic Games, given that he is a Norwegian winter sports representative and one of his country's best known and most popular Olympians of all-time.

Bjørndalen claimed gold in an individual 20 kilometres event in an International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup in Östersund in December and won a bronze medal as part of the Norwegian men's relay team at Antholz-Anterselva in Italy on January 24.

He opted to miss the subsequent two North American legs in Canmore in Canada and Presque Isle in the United States, in order to focus on altitude training in the Italian resort of Anterselva ahead of the World Championships, due to open on March 2. 

Czech Republic javelin thrower Jan Zelezny resigned as a member of the IOC Athletes' Commission in 2001 because he wanted to concentrate on training and was replaced by Britain's Sir Matthew Pinsent.

Australian swimmer Susie O'Neill also stepped down from the Commission in 2005 because she wanted to spend more time with her family. 

"A lot of people sacrifice a lot to attend the Olympic Games and to become IOC members," one member told insidethegames.

"If you are not prepared to do that, you should not remain in the position."