This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Kremlin is denying reports that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had to cancel a state visit to due to health problems, but until we some shirtless horseback riding pictures, we're going to continue to assume the worst. Japanese media outlets are saying today that that a scheduled December visit to Moscow by their prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has been canceled because of Putin's "health problem." Noda allegedly told a meeting of local officials that "Putin's health condition is bad" and Russia wants to keep it under wraps.

Rumors began swirling about Putin several months ago after he was seen limping during foreign summit in September—this photo of him wincing was taken September 9—and he reportedly has not left Moscow since the beginning of October.The most persistent story seems to be a serious back injury and according to the President of Belarus, Putin "twisted his spine" during a recent bout of his favorite sport, judo. Another story says he aggravated an old injury during his hang-gliding stunt in September.

However, a spokesperson in Russia has denied the rumors saying that the Japan trip was "never scheduled definitively," so it couldn't really be canceled. But there have also been several other planned foreign trips that were never definitely scheduled for the Russian leader this month and then never actually happened, so this seems to be an epidemic. If he doesn't show up for a much publicized visit to Turkey next week, there will definitely be some explaining to do.

Secrecy may instinctual for the Kremlin, but in this case seems misplaced. There's no shame in a 60-year-old man getting hurt in a fight, it's not like he couldn't take some time off without getting overthrown. Either way, if Putin doesn't show himself in public performing some particularly manly stunt soon, the rest of the world is going to assume the "strongman" ism't so strong anymore.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to