The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee will require athletes wishing to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 1.
USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland announced the new policy on Wednesday in a letter to stakeholders. The letter and an internal document, both obtained by Yahoo Sports, state that the policy also applies to coaches, staff and “our entire Team USA delegation to future Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The International Olympic Committee did not mandate vaccination for the Olympic Games in Tokyo last summer and did not indicate that it would introduce a mandate for the Winter Games in Beijing. The first versions of its COVID-19 countermeasures playbooks are expected next month.
The USOPC also did not require participants in the Summer Olympics to be vaccinated, and about 100 of the more than 600 athletes on the U.S. team competed in Tokyo unvaccinated.
But Hirshland, citing “strong support” for the mandate of the USOPC Athlete Council and sport-specific governing bodies, wrote: “This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for athletes and staff. of Team USA, and will allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and athlete service. “
In the internal document, the USOPC said it would grant “an exemption from the vaccine requirement for legitimate medical reasons or because of sincere religious belief,” but not for a previous infection. Requests for exemptions will go “through an independent third party” and will be “reviewed on a case-by-case basis”.
The document does, however, state that unvaccinated athletes who are granted an exemption could be subject to more stringent protocols, and a Separate FAQ says they will need to undergo daily COVID testing while on the U.S. team.
Without an exemption, they would not be allowed to attend the Olympics, regardless of IOC policy.
And for Team USA staff members, “failure to meet vaccine requirements may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination,” the document said.
The mandate takes effect in stages and, on November 1, applies to anyone entering a USOPC facility or participating in a Team USA event.
One month later, on December 1 – and two months before the Olympics, which start on February 4 – it will apply to “everyone on the long list of the Beijing Winter Games”, including athletes. , if they wish to participate.
The USOPC will send over 200 athletes to the Games, but many more will try to qualify. Anyone running will appear on this “long list” and will be subject to the mandate.
Hirshland, in her letter, wrote that she had hoped months ago that the USOPC would “lift our COVID-19 restrictions by the end” of the Tokyo Olympics. By early July, the number of cases in the United States had fallen below 15,000 per day.
They have since increased exponentially, reaching well over 100,000 per day.
“The harsh reality,” Hirshland wrote, “is that this pandemic is far from over.”