After being delayed for a year, athletes have arrived in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics. And with their arrival comes a literal book of safety protocols as the event takes place with Tokyo under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of July 22, there have been 87 people linked to the Olympics who have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 1, according to Tokyo 2020 organizers. Among those 87 people, eight are athletes.
Can athletes who test positive for COVID-19 at the Olympics still compete?
No, athletes who test positive for COVID-19 at the Olympics cannot compete at the games in Tokyo.
WHAT WE FOUND
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a 70-page “playbook” that lays out the COVID-19 protocols in place for athletes. The playbook addresses what athletes need to do before they fly to Tokyo, as well as details what they need to do once they land in Japan and arrive at the Olympics.
There is no requirement for athletes to be vaccinated to compete in the Olympics. In a June press conference, an IOC official said more than 80% of athletes competing in the Olympics were expected to be vaccinated. The IOC playbook, published in June, says more than 80% of Olympic Village residents will be vaccinated.
Athletes are tested for COVID-19 before arriving in Tokyo, and any athlete who tests positive in that time must self-isolate. The athlete must also inform their COVID liaison officer, who will work with Olympic organizers on what to do next.
Athletes who test negative and arrive in Tokyo must still quarantine for three days with the exception of “Games-related activities.”
According to the playbook, once at the games, athletes are tested every day using saliva samples. If an athlete tests positive, they receive a confirmatory nasal PCR test. If that test is also positive, the athlete will not be allowed to compete for the remainder of the games and they must self-isolate or, if necessary, go to the hospital.
“You will not be allowed to compete/continue your role,” Page 32 of the playbook tells athletes.
Two American athletes so far have tested positive for COVID-19 in Japan and will not compete: Kara Eaker, who was an alternate on the gymnastics team, and beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb. USA Volleyball confirmed Crabb was replaced due to his positive COVID-19 test.
Athletes who test positive isolate at a hotel where they are provided three meals a day. Teams can drop off items for them as well. Japanese health authorities determine how long each athlete must self-isolate.
The IOC has developed sport-specific guidelines for how teams and competitions move forward after an athlete tests positive. According to the guidance, when possible, “the place of an athlete or team unable to compete will be filled by the next most eligible athlete or team, allowing events to go ahead where possible and medals to be competed for on the field of play.”
After an athlete tests positive for COVID-19, health officials work to identify close contacts, which the IOC defines as “those who have prolonged contact (for 15 minutes or more) with a person who has a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, within one metre, without wearing a face mask, from the two days before the person’s symptoms appeared to when they were tested and started isolating.”
The arrangement for athletes identified as close contacts will vary on a case-by-case basis. If a close contact tests negative and is allowed to compete, they may have to follow stricter rules to further minimize their contact with others, including eating meals alone.
The IOC playbook also has general requirements for athletes as they move around the Olympic setting, including distancing from others when possible and wearing masks. They are not allowed to use public transportation “unless it is the only way to reach remote Games venues.” Walking around the city and visiting tourist areas is also prohibited.
Athletes must also leave within 48 hours of when their competition ends or when they are eliminated, whichever is earlier.
Failure to comply with the rules could result in disciplinary measures that include a simple warning, disqualification and fines.
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