The SAI Bhopal Center doesn’t house any Olympic probable. (SAI/Twitter)
The SAI Bhopal Center doesn’t house any Olympic probable. (SAI/Twitter)

Weekly tests for India’s Tokyo-bound athletes after Covid spike in SAI centres

Country’s 19-member judo contingent quarantined in Kyrgyzstan after two judokas test positive
By Avishek Roy, Sharad Deep
UPDATED ON APR 07, 2021 11:37 PM IST

The impact of a surge in Covid-19 cases across India is also being felt at Sports Authority of India (SAI) centres. Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes will be tested every week and training will be as per a staggered schedule, new Standard Operating Procedures of SAI says.

SAI National Centre of Excellence, Bhopal reported 36 positive cases, including 24 athletes, on Wednesday. This comes a week after 30 positive cases were reported among athletes and support staff from SAI centres in Patiala and Bengaluru, both hubs for Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes. SAI says no athlete training for the Olympics has tested positive in recent days.

Precautionary Covid tests are already being done in SAI centres in the wake of a rapid rise in cases. Athletes and support staff in its Bhopal centre had given the test on April 3 (Saturday) and April 6 (Tuesday). “In the two tests conducted, a total of 36 people have tested positive for Covid, out of whom 24 are athletes and the other 12 are staff of NCOE (National Centres of Excellence).

“However, none of the athletes who have tested positive are Olympics-bound. Some of the athletes who tested positive had returned from competitions of wushu and judo,” SAI said in a statement.

The athletes who tested positive have been shifted to hospital as a precautionary measure. “None of the athletes are critical,” it added.

There will be no disruption in training, but SAI has issued a circular to all NCOEs to strictly follow the SOPs and conduct regular precautionary tests for athletes. As per the new SOP, athletes must take a RT-PCR test within 72 hours before arrival and will be allowed in the centre only if the report is negative. National campers who are Olympic probables will have to undergo a week’s quarantine, and training will be allowed with Covid-appropriate protocols.

There will be weekly testing of all athletes, support staff and administration and strict quarantine norms have been put in place. “An RT-PCR test will be conducted for national campers on the 6th day of quarantine and thereafter, every week,” SAI said.

“All precautions and norms will be implemented keeping Olympic probable athletes in mind so that their training does not suffer, with special schedules and staggered timings being drawn up,” SAI said.

The women’s wrestling team has left SAI Centre, Lucknow for Kazakhstan to take part in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers starting on Friday. Some of those who will participate in non-Olympic categories at the Asian championships will leave in a day or two.

“After Holi, most of the wrestlers went home and they were allowed to travel to Kazakhstan directly from there as calling them again to the centre would have meant they will have to be in quarantine,” SAI executive director, Sanjay Saraswat, said on Wednesday.

SAI’s come-and-play scheme for the public has been shut. “We have also asked the national campers not to go outside the centre. They will be allowed to go home or travel only in emergency situations,” said Saraswat. “So far no one from the centre is corona positive.”

Judo team quarantined in Bishkek

The Indian judo team has withdrawn from the Asia-Oceania Championships in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan after two judokas tested positive during tests done by the organisers.

The team of 19 members—15 judokas and four coaches—has been put on a 10-day quarantine as per protocol of local health authorities. The team went through two tests in India and one after reaching Kyrgyzstan and reported negative each time. They tested positive before the competition on Monday.

“The players are safe in a hotel with their daily requirements being looked after,” SAI said. “The sports ministry is in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs to bring the players back safe.”

The tournament was part of the Olympic qualification cycle based on world rankings.

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