Havana, March 18 (IANS) The number of Cuban athletes signed to foreign teams has been on the rise since regulations made it possible, the National Sports Institute (Inder) said.
Just a handful of athletes played abroad in 2013 and 2014, but the number jumped to 37 in 2015 and to 61 last year, Inder's Legal Director Ramiro Dominguez said on Friday, reports Xinhua news agency.
In 2016, some 200 to 300 Cuban athletes competed internationally in tournaments, or did temporary stints in foreign leagues or at training camps abroad, as part of Inder's strategy to improve the level of performance of Cuba's athletes.
"We expect all of those figures to rise, always in keeping with our goals," Dominguez told reporters at a press conference.
Nowadays, Cuban athletes are allowed to sign with foreign baseball, basketball and volleyball teams after Cuban authorities reformed restrictive laws in 2013.
The strategy aims to "raise their technical training" by having them compete with world-class athletes, he said.
For years, only Cuban athletes who defected appeared among foreign lineups, especially baseball teams.
Now Cuba only requests that players be allowed to represent their country when needed.