Olympics 2021: What Happens If an Athlete Tests Positive For COVID-19?

Will athletes be disqualified if they test COVID positive? Is it mandatory for the participants to be vaccinated?

4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>The Tokyo Olympics is being conducted from 23 July to 8 August.</p></div>

The Games Organising Committee on Sunday, 18 July, announced that three athletes, two of them staying at the Olympic Village, have tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 10 cases were reported on that day which included five games-concerned personnel, a contractor, and a journalist, according to the COVID-19 Positive Case List uploaded by the Organising Committee.

This brings the total number of Games-related coronavirus cases to 55 as per the OC records.

The Tokyo Olympics is being conducted from 23 July to 8 August, almost a year after it was scheduled to happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What will happen if an athlete tests positive? Will they be disqualified? Is it mandatory for the participants to be vaccinated? Here’s everything we know.


Is it mandatory for the athletes to be vaccinated?

Vaccination is not mandatory for the athletes. However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced that Pfizer BioNTech, China’s SinoVac Biotech Ltd have agreed to offer doses of their mRNA vaccine to Olympic and Paralympic games participants.

What are the COVID guidelines for the athletes?

Upon arrival, every athlete has to follow a three-day mandatory quarantine rule. After that, all the athletes will be tested daily for COVID.

None of the athletes can socialise with the general public and within the athletes’ village. The athletes have to wear masks except for when they're competing, eating, sleeping, or in any kind of isolation.

The medal ceremony will also be contactless as the athletes will be required to fetch their medal off of a tray and drape it around their own neck.

Will there be an audience at the Games?

There will be no fans at the Tokyo Olympics.


What will happen if an athlete tests positive for COVID-19?

According to the principles set by the IOC Executive Board, any athlete testing positive for COVID-19 will be forced to withdraw from the Olympics and will be considered as ‘Did Not Start (DNS).’

No athlete or team will be designated as 'disqualified' for COVID-19 reasons.

The minimum result of the athlete/team will be protected, considering the phase of competition at which they could not compete.

Where 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.

Do different sports have different regulations?


According to the Sport-Specific Regulations, in case an athlete is unable to compete because of a positive COVID-19 case, in track events, the best next-best placed athletes from the previous round will be brought forward to replace that athlete in the next phase.

“The exception is for the 10,000m which is a direct final and takes place as a single race and therefore the results of the daily COVID-19 test will determine if an athlete can start, otherwise the event will go ahead with one less athlete. For the field events where possible athletes unable to compete in the final will be replaced with the next best placed athlete,” the SSR states.


In badminton, athletes who have started the competition and are no longer able to compete due to COVID-19 will be marked as Withdrawn (WDN). The opponent will receive a bye and the minimum result of the athlete is protected.


If an athlete is not unable to compete, the opponent receives a ‘bye’ into the next round. In case the athlete has reached the final and is no longer able to compete due to COVID-19 the athlete eliminated in the respective semi-final will fill the vacant place and compete in the final.

Other Sports

In some events like tennis and boxing, if the player tests positive the opponent receives a ‘bye’ and no replacement will take place. If this happens in the final, the player testing positive will receive a silver medal whereas the opponent will receive a gold medal.

In sports like rugby and hockey, if a team tests positive in the knockout stages, their minimum ranking achieved will be protected and, if time allows, their opponent will advance to the next round. “If a team is unable to participate in the final, the team that was eliminated by the COVID-19 impacted team will be brought into the final to compete for the medal on the field of play. The other losing semi-finalist will be awarded the bronze medal,” the regulations state.

In general, for most of the single-day events like shooting, weightlifting, marathons all an athlete needs is a negative test from that morning to compete. Whereas, for events like hockey, handball and rugby that go on for multiple days a player or team testing positive can be replaced.

How will contact tracing happen?

Any athlete who comes in close contact with an individual confirmed to have COVID-19 will be asked to remain in a single room for 14 days and prohibited from leaving except to train or compete.

They will only be allowed to compete if they test negative in a PCR check held just prior to their event.

In events such as judo, PCR tests will be taken after the match as well. All athletes will be tested daily and will have to withraw if tested positive.

A contact tracing system is going be used in the Olympic Village to help contain any cases that emerge. It is mandatory for people entering Japan to download the contact tracing app, and athletes and members of the media are asked to turn on GPS tracking on their phones.


Who will conduct the tests?

A ‘Covid Liaison Officer’ (CLO) has been appointed to every contingent to ensure that all the samples from different countries are submitted on time. Prem Chand Verma, a senior bureaucrat is the CLO for the Indian team.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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