Used and abused for national prestige . Nearly 80% of China's 300,000 retired athletes are struggling with joblessness, injury or poverty. Many athletes suffer from sports injuries and health problems caused by their training. Last year, China's national news agency Xinhua reported that almost half of 6,000 professional athletes retiring from competition each year end up jobless or without further schooling plans.
The root of the problem can be traced back to the country's wholesale adoption of unfettered capitalism. Market forces were unleashed on what was once a sports system that cared for its athletes from cradle to grave, leaving tens of thousands out in the cold when they had passed their athletic peak and could no longer win attention and profits for their sports associations. In 2003, the changes were reinforced by a new law that shifted most responsibility for employment after retirement to the athletes themselves.
"This group of athletes is the legacy of China's economic development," Liu Mingyu, deputy director of Liaoning Provincial Sports Bureau .