USA Swimming calls on USOPC to push for postponement of Tokyo Olympics
USA Swimming, one of the most important national governing bodies within the U.S. Olympic community, has called for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to be postponed for one year, USA TODAY Sports has learned.
In a letter sent Friday afternoon to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said that as the coronavirus outbreak has grown, he has “watched our athletes’ worlds be turned upside down and watched them struggle to find ways to continue to prepare and train – many for the biggest competitive opportunity of their lives.”
Wrote Hinchey: “Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all. Our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness should be among the highest priorities.
“It is with the burden of these serious concerns that we respectfully request that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by one year. There are no perfect answers, and this will not be easy; however, it is a solution that provides a concrete path forward and allows all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021.
"We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes.”
USA Swimming’s decision to write the letter was based on overwhelming support from its top swimmers, coaches and officials.
“I’m very proud of USA Swimming,” Bob Bowman, the renowned swimming coach who trained Michael Phelps throughout his illustrious career, said in a phone conversation. “I was hoping they would take a leadership role and Tim Hinchey clearly did with that letter. I hope other NGBs will join us.”
Later in the day, Hirshland and USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons issued a statement about the USA Swimming letter:
“The USOPC has complete and total empathy for the athlete community as they manage the terrible stress and anxiety caused by the current lack of certitude regarding the Tokyo Games. We understand that the athletes have concerns about training, qualification and anti-doping controls, and that they want transparency, communication and clarity to the full extent possible. The USOPC has made it clear that all athletes should put their health and wellness, and the health and wellness of the greater community, above all else at this unprecedented moment.
“At the same time, and as it relates to the Games, we have also heard from athletes that they want the Olympic and Paralympic community to be very intentional about the path forward – and to ensure that we aren’t prematurely taking away any athletes’ opportunity to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games until we have better clarity.”
Hirshland and Lyons said the USOPC is in “constant communication” with senior leadership at the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee.
“They believe that it is premature to make a final call on the date of the Games and we believe that we should afford them the opportunity to gather more data and expert advice before insisting that a decision be made.”
They said the IOC is polling all national Olympic committees prior to next week’s IOC executive board meeting to determine how the pandemic is impacting athlete training.
“Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them,” Hirshland and Lyons said. “The USOPC will be leaders in providing accurate advice and honest feedback, and be unfailing advocates of the athletes and their safety, and the necessity of a fair platform for the Games. You have our promise.”
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin July 24.