It is part of the new reality for professional and college athletes as well as their fans that players will test positive for COVID-19. Sometimes it is several members of the same team, which can put a season on hold. Often, they return to the team or competition once they test negative.
Olympic athletes, unfortunately, have finite windows where they must qualify for the team and then head to Tokyo when the games start. Of course, July 23, 2021, is already another year of athletes putting their lives on hold, waiting and trying to do all the training scheduled for an apex performance during the qualifiers and games. Moreover, they may find that even being near someone with the virus is enough to effectively end their dreams of Olympic competition, at least in 2021. The stakes are high for countries as well – qualifying events could become super-spreader events that decimate the Olympic team.
The rules for testing
The U.S. athletes must follow these testing protocols:
- Athletes must test negative before traveling to qualifiers.
- They must take a second test 72 hours before their first competition.
- Track and field are testing every 48 hours during the ten days of trials.
Guilty by association
The disqualified athletes need not even test positive — they are disqualified for coming into close contact with someone who tests positive. Regardless of whether contact was inside or outside, USOPC defines close contact as:
- Spending more than 15 minutes during a 24-hour period with someone who is symptomatic
- Spending 15 minutes during the 48-hour period before the person was symptomatic or tested positive
Those who have their vaccines and are two weeks past receiving the last dose are exempt from the above rules and need not quarantine. However, these rules may be different than those of the Olympic Organizers.
Is the dream over?
Unfortunately, the realities of the pandemic collide with time and economics. Unlike professional basketball players or tennis players, 2020/2021 will be many athletes’ one-shot for Olympic glory. They may get injured, get old or run out of money to pay for training. Professional athletes face the first two challenges, but financial compensation enables them to carry on while the Olympians may need to call it a day.