Tokyo Olympics 2020: What happens if an athlete tests Covid-19 positive? – Explainer of the Day


The International Olympic Committee (IOC), in collaboration with the International Sports Federations, issued the Tokyo 2020 Sport-Specific Regulations (SSR) on July 11, 2021. The regulations specify what happens in case an athlete test COVID-19 positive at the Tokyo Olympics that begins July 23, 2021.

The Tokyo 2020 SSR lays down the principles on a sport-by-sport basis to follow in case of a confirmed positive COVID-19 case during the Games. These regulations provide a framework of COVID-19 countermeasures for a safe and secure Olympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 SSR: What are the three main principles?

•No athlete or team will be designated as ‘disqualified’ if tested positive COVID-19. Instead, if an athlete is unable to take part due to COVID-19, they will be considered ‘Did Not Start’ (DNS).

•The result of the athlete or team being unable to compete due to COVID-19 will be protected, keeping the phase of competition in consideration.

•The next most eligible athlete or team will take place of an athlete or team unable to compete due to COVID-19 on a sport-by-sport basis.

What will happen in case of single-day and multi-day events?

•Athletes will be tested every day.

•For single-day events such as marathons, shooting, weightlifting, an athlete will undergo a COVID-19 test in the morning to check their COVID-19 status which should be negative. In case they test positive, they will not be considered disqualified but rather ‘did not start’ (DNS).

•For multi-day events, an athlete or team who tests positive for COVID-19 can be replaced with the next eligible athlete or team. For example, if a team playing hockey, handball, or rugby 7s, a team tests positive after the first round of knockout matches, they will be withdrawn and the team they had beat to qualify for the second round will take their place.

•For individual events, if an athlete tests positive for COVID-19, the next highest-ranked athlete takes their place. For example, if a sprinter in the 100m final tests COVID-19 positive on the day of the race, they will be replaced by the person who finished ninth in the semi-finals.

•For events such as badminton, boxing, or tennis, if a player tests COVID-19 positive, the opponent is given a ‘bye’ and no replacement happens. In case of a player testing positive in the finals, a silver medal will be given to the COVID-19 positive player and gold to the opponent.

What will happen in case of close contact sports?

•For close contact sports such as wrestling, unlike boxing, if an athlete test COVID-19 positive during the gold medal match of a wrestling event, he or she will be withdrawn and the athlete they beat in the semi-finals will take their place.

•In the case of wrestling, the replacement athlete is not considered as ‘close contact’ despite physical contact with the athlete who tested positive. All the replacement athletes are tested on the day of the final.

What in case of sports with medal hopes?

•Wrestling: If a player tests COVID-19 positive in the final match, they will be replaced but the SSR does not specify If they will be given a medal.

•Hockey: It is unclear from the SSR if the team is unable to compete due to COVID-19 receives a medal.

•Handball: The team that the COVID-19 affected team had beat in the semi-finals will be moved to the finals. The bronze medal match will not be played.

•Football: The SSR does not specify in detail what happens in the case of COVID-19 case during the event. It states that FIFA will decide on the matter and take action as deemed necessary.

Who will organize COVID-19 test for athletes?

•A COVID Liaison Officer (CLO) has been assigned to each contingent. These officers will ensure that samples of every athlete from that country are collected and submitted on time for testing.

•Prem Chand Verma, a senior bureaucrat is the COVID Liaison Officer (CLO) for the Indian team.

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