Updated: December 15, 2020 10:29:22 PM
THE SPORTS MINISTRY and the Indian Olympics are aiming for early access to the Covid vaccine so they can train for the mega event in Tokyo postponed to the summer of 2021. But there is a catch: the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is tracking the composition of the vaccine to prevent athletes failing a doping test.
“WADA has a memorandum of understanding with various pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, as well as the representative body of that industry, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations,” the agency said in an email response to a question from The Indian Express.
“WADA is communicating with them on this issue to ascertain the exact composition of the various vaccines currently available. WADA will continue to communicate with athletes and other stakeholders as long as relevant information is available, ”it said in the statement, which was also posted on its website.
WADA prohibits athletes from consuming hundreds of substances that could improve their performance, in and out of competition. The penalty is severe – a first-degree offender can be excluded for up to four years.
Narinder Batra, president of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said they will wait for advice from various anti-doping bodies. “We are grateful that the government is thinking about the athletes, but we need to make sure the vaccines do not have ingredients that could lead to a failed doping test. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are talking to various “We are waiting for their advice,” said Batra.
Last month, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said athletes in contention for the Olympics, along with support staff, would be put on the priority list for the vaccine. “Whether it’s the Tokyo Olympics or any major event, preference will be given to Olympic-linked athletes as well as the (supportive) staff, as it’s limited to time. Our athletes will be preferred and we will work with the Ministry of Health, Rijiju was quoted as saying by PTI.
Last week a high-level government panel recommended three groups simultaneously vaccinate as a priority depending on vaccine availability: 1 crore from health care providers; 2 crore front workers, including police and armed forces; and, about Rs 27 crore over the age of 50 and those under 50 years with associated comorbidities. No mention of athletes.
“Healthy and front-line workers must be a priority. But I feel a vaccine will be very important for athletes as well, especially since the Olympics are just around the corner,” Sushil Kumar, a two-time Olympic medalist, told The Indian Express. “Wrestling is a contact sport so it’s always a risk for us. Already many of my teammates have been infected,” he said.
A country coach who is busy preparing for the Olympics said a vaccine will help his players train themselves in groups without fear of becoming infected. “It will do a lot of things convenient for us. For the most part, we will be able to travel to various cities and countries for our preparation without fear of contracting the disease, ”the coach said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, president of Wrestling Federation of India, however warned that it would be important to understand the side effects of a vaccine before an athlete receives it. “We will have to plan it well, check what the side effects are and for how long the athlete will have to stay out of combat. We will wait to see what system the government develops. But if a situation arises where the athlete has to shoot, I’m sure, that we can succeed, ”he said.
More than 11,000 athletes will take part in the Tokyo Olympics, in addition to thousands of coaches, managers, spectators and the media. The Games, to be held this year, have been postponed due to the pandemic and will now take place from July 23 to August 9, 2021.
The International Olympic Committee, which governs the Games, is clear: athletes will not be “forced” to take the vaccine, but do so as a “demonstration of solidarity”.
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