Home > The Scene

What will happen to athletes who test positive for COVID-19 at the Olympics?

The IOC has announced its contingency plan for athletes who contract the virus during the Tokyo Games

As athletes prepare to head to Tokyo in a week’s time, there is one question on many peoples’ minds: what will happen if an athlete tests positive for COVID-19? While Olympic organizers have put a series of rules and guidelines in place to limit the spread of the virus, this hardly brings the risk of an athlete contracting it down to zero. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), along with the respective International Federations, has developed the Tokyo 2020 Sport-Specific Regulations (SSR) to determine how any confirmed COVID-19 cases will be handled at the Games.


RELATED: Athletes must acknowledge risk of death from COVID-19 in Tokyo Games waivers

Last month, the IOC set three main principles to guide how COVID-19 would be handled across all sports, including track and field. First, should an athlete test positive before their event, they will not be designated as disqualified. Instead, they will receive the “Did Not Start” (DNS) designation or a sport-specific designation will be used when an athlete cannot compete.

Second, the minimum result of the athlete will be protected depending on the phase of competition at which they cannot compete. For example, if an athlete places first in the preliminary round of competition, that result will still be recorded, even if they cannot continue in the competition.

Finally, when an athlete tests positive and is unable to compete, whenever possible their spot will be given to the next most eligible athlete. For example, if an athlete tests positive after a preliminary round and cannot compete at the final, the first athlete who did not make it to the final will receive the spot.


RELATED: It’s official: no fans in the stands at the Tokyo Olympics

“The Tokyo 2020 Playbooks and COVID-19 countermeasures provide the framework for a safe and secure Olympic Games,” the IOC said in a statement. “These SSRs are therefore contingency plans that will be activated in case a confirmed case appears so that all stakeholders are ready to implement this and not impact the athletes’ experience or delay the competition.”