USOPC to require Covid vaccine for Winter Olympics

Olympians from the United States who competed in the Tokyo Games this summer were encouraged, but not required, to be vaccinated against...


Olympians from the United States who competed in the Tokyo Games this summer were encouraged, but not required, to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Over 80 percent of them eventually got their shots.

But this option will not be available for athletes aiming to participate in the next round of the Games.

On Wednesday, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced that all athletes and team staff who use the organization’s training facilities and facilities should be fully immunized by November 1.

The organization also said that by December 1, all athletes vying to represent the country at the Winter Games, which are due to start on February 4 in Beijing with the Olympics followed by the start of the Paralympic Games on March 4. , will have to show proof of vaccination in order to join the American delegation.

The International Olympic Committee has not announced a mandatory vaccine for the Beijing Games.

“The harsh reality is that this pandemic is far from over,” wrote Sarah Hirshland, USOPC executive director, in a letter reviewed by The New York Times. “This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for athletes and Team USA staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and athlete service.”

Brock Crouch, a 22-year-old Californian, is an Olympic snowboarding prospect. He is vaccinated, he said, and supports the decision.

“We have been giving vaccines since we were very young children,” he said at a training camp in Switzerland on Thursday. “If that’s what it takes to get back to normal, and that’s what it takes to have an event, I think that’s something everyone has to adjust to.”

Many of the world’s best snowboarders and freeskiers are in Switzerland this fall, training for the coming season, and not everyone is vaccinated, Crouch said. It’s not sure whether any of the unvaccinated are convinced enough to give up a chance to compete in Beijing.

“Why would we go all the way here and try to get it?” He said of the virus.

Jim Leahy, CEO of USA Luge, said in a statement, “I can tell you that I think the decision made by the USOPC is in the best interests of all athletes. Vaccinations have been proven to be a protective vehicle, so any measure to keep our athletes on the playing field is welcome. “

The new policy, first reported by The Associated Press, takes the USOPC one step further than North America’s major professional sports leagues, none of which have required athletes to be vaccinated to compete.

The decision reflects the severity of the current global health crisis as well as the lingering uncertainty about the type of health protocols and preventive measures which will be deployed by the Olympic and Paralympic organizers in Beijing.

Vaccines were not mandatory for this summer’s Tokyo Games, which have been postponed for a year due to the pandemic. In July, Jonathan Finnoff, the chief medical officer of the USOPC, said about 83% of US Olympians had been vaccinated for the Tokyo Olympics. And the IOC has estimated that more than 80 percent of all Olympians staying at the Athletes’ Village in Tokyo are fully immunized.

The new USOPC policy came amid speculation about the rules that athletes, officials, team staff and journalists will face in China, where generalized confinements and strict quarantines were quite common during the pandemic. Athletes and officials have braced for a number of countermeasures, including the possibility of long quarantines and the implementation of a so-called Games bubble.

As it did for the Tokyo Games, the IOC will publish a so-called playbook next month detailing its preliminary rules and plans to prevent the spread of the virus at the 2022 Olympics. Twenty-eight athletes tested positive in Tokyo before the Summer Olympics and during competition, as did 13 athletes in Tokyo for the Paralympic Games.

The IOC created a unique set of rules for Olympic participants in Tokyo, making the Games operate as if no one had been vaccinated. It is not known whether vaccinated athletes will have different privileges in Beijing.

Beyond the Winter Games, the USOPC vaccine requirement will apply to all U.S. athletes wishing to compete in future Paralympic Games, Pan Am / Parapan Am Games, and Youth Olympic Games.

The organization has left open the possibility for athletes to benefit from medical or religious exemptions, which they should obtain before November 1.

Hirshland said in his letter that the policy received the support of the USOPC Athlete Advisory Council. She added that the decision was “further reinforced by the Food and Drug Administration Pfizer vaccine approval and the recent federal government mandates.

Jean Branch contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: USOPC to require Covid vaccine for Winter Olympics
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