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Elite athletes must respect distancing in training

May 14, 2020 09:37 IST
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IMAGE: Rower Jamie Copus of the Great Britain Rowing Team trains in Isolation from his home in Oxford. Photograph: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Britain’s elite athletes will have to respect social distancing guidelines and be aware of the risks when they resume individual performance training after the coronavirus lockdown, guidance published on Wednesday said.

The document set out the terms for athletes in a first step towards allowing the return of live sport in the country.


The government has said elite sport in England cannot return until at least June 1 and will have to take place without spectators present.

“Enabling athletes to get match-fit is an important milestone towards restarting competitive sport behind closed doors — but we have not given a green light yet,” said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“We are clear that this can only happen on the advice of medical experts and when it is safe to do so.”

Training, at official elite venues under carefully controlled medical conditions, will require athletes to keep two metres apart at all times from their team mates and anyone outside their household.

“Organised training should only be resumed where government guidelines on social distancing can be adhered to, considering any terms of dispensation allowed for elite sport,” the guidance said.


IMAGE: Team GB athlete Desiree Henry trains at a golf course in Edmonton, following the outbreak of the coronavirus. Photograph: Tom Jacobs/Reuters

It added that sports should outline how there will be regular screening for COVID-19 symptoms before athletes enter training environments.

All athletes and support staff will be expected to undergo one-to-one check-ups and briefings before any organised training which will also highlight sport-specific risks and the measures to mitigate them.

The guidance also covers measures such as the deep cleaning of facilities.

Guidance on the second step, to include “a level of social clustering” subject to medical experts giving the go-ahead, will come later.

“It is important to note that the publication of this guidance does not mean that all Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes should return to training straight away,” said UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday.

“Indeed, we fully expect different sports will return to training at different times.

“Each sport will need to make a risk assessment against the guidance and determine what is best for both their athletes and staff.”

Munday said returning to training was a personal choice and recognised there might be concerns or circumstances that made it challenging.

The Premier League is consulting this week with players, managers and their representative bodies before a planned first phase of training next Monday.

The Rugby Football Union said the announcement was a welcome step.

“There is still significant work to do and discussions to be had with players and staff before any form of training can resume, their welfare will be at the heart of our decisions,” it added.

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