Olympics officials on Friday defended rules that forced a US medal hopeful out of the Tokyo Games after a GOP senator suggested without evidence that the pole vaulter’s Covid-19 test was a ” false positive”.
Mississippi pole vaulter Sam Kendricks was stranded from the Games on Thursday after testing positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the start of the track and field events.
But Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss, suggested the test that knocked him out of the competition was “almost certainly a false positive.”
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“It is an injustice that can still be rectified if the Olympic Committee is fair,” Wicker told the Senate later Thursday.
Kendricks, Wicker said, was disqualified “regardless of the fact that his test, one of the thousands of tests administered daily, could very well have been fluke!”
“I am outraged, outraged that a young athlete unfairly misses his chance to show his talent to the world and win a gold medal on behalf of his country,” Wicker added.
International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told a press conference on Friday that every athlete participating in the games was treated the same. This includes being immediately retested if their saliva test is positive for Covid-19.
“I can’t talk about an individual case, but that’s what happens in all cases,” Adams said.
“He and everyone else will be subject to the same strict protocols because it’s important to give everyone confidence. And for obvious reasons, we cannot make exceptions for individuals. Everyone has to follow the rules, I’m afraid.
But the IOC said on Friday it would make an effort to improve conditions for athletes who land in coronavirus quarantine. It comes after Dutch taekwondo competitor Reshmie Oogink caught the world’s attention when she described her isolation as an “Olympic prison” in an Instagram post.
Kendricks, 28, is the reigning two-time pole vault world champion and was one of America’s top prospects for a gold in the track and field competition, which kicked off at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Friday.
Wicker said Kendricks had previously had Covid-19 “and should be immune”. But it was not clear whether Kendricks was vaccinated and on a June 14 zoom call with reporters he did not respond directly to the question, the Wall Street Journal reported.
A native of Mississippi and a first mate in the U.S. Army Reserve, Kendricks created one of the most memorable moments in the Rio Games when he stopped in the middle of the sprint, put down his pole and stood. brought to attention when he heard the US national anthem. played at a medal ceremony on the other side of the stadium.
Team USA’s vaccination rate is 83 percent, suggesting that up to 100 American athletes in Tokyo are unvaccinated.
In contrast, only 27% of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures.
And in recent days, a record number of new cases of Covid have been reported in Tokyo, which is under a state of emergency, which has banned all fans from watching athletes compete at Olympic venues.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 3,300 new positive cases of Covid-19 on Friday, a slight drop from Thursday’s record 3,865 new cases.
The Japanese government also declared new states of emergency in three prefectures around Tokyo and in the city of Osaka.