NEW DELHI, September 16: Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Wednesday said it has requested the government to give priority to Olympic-bound athletes when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Several countries, including India, are trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The Indian government is considering inoculating the front line workers, army personnel and certain categories first.
“We have already discussed this with the government and told them we will need it (vaccine) for our athletes going to the Olympics,” AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said during a webinar.
“We need to make sure once the vaccine comes out, they (Olympic-bound athletes) should be amongst the first batches to get it and the discussion regarding that has already happened,” he added.
Asked if any player is apprehensive about getting inoculated, like tennis star Novak Djokovic, or if the vaccine could cause problems with dope control, national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand said the athletes are looking forward to it.
“I don’t think there will be an issue with the athletes, they are just waiting for the vaccine to come. There will be trials which will ensure the players are feeling confident when they take the vaccine,” Gopichand said.
Sumariwalla said since all the countries across the globe are suffering from the pandemic, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) must be aware that these (potential vaccines) are not for enhancing performance.
“I don’t think there is any issue with dope control because it is a worldwide thing. WADA would have taken enough cognisance of the fact that these are not performance enhancing drugs and that they have been taken to protect the health and well being,” he said.
Boxers ready to hit next stage, waiting for sparring approval
When the boxing federation got the go-ahead in early July this year to resume the national camp amid the coronavirus pandemic, the instructions for full contact sports in Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Covid-19 SOP were clear: “Selective training…individually without engaging in physical combat with other athletes.” In boxing terminology, “human sparring” was prohibited. Two months from that day, Boxing Federation of India’s (BFI) high performance director, Santiago Nieva, feels it’s now time to move to the next stage of training, i.e., sparring.
Most of India’s top men and women boxers are currently at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) Patiala, and according to Nieva, they should now get down to sparring provided the camp gets SAI’s approval for that.
“Definitely, we expect (that),” said Nieva talking to Timesofindia.com from Patiala, when asked about contact training.
“We are waiting, in discussion, it looks good,” he added, when quizzed further if an official approval from BFI and SAI has been sought.
Nieva reckoned the boxers have regained whatever fitness they lost during the three-month long countrywide lockdown by the government back in March, which forced the Indian athletes to stay indoors, either at their homes or at SAI facilities across the country.
“We went into lockdown after the Olympic qualifiers (in March). They (the boxers) were in the best shape of their life then. Now, obviously they were not at that level,” said Nieva.
The camp began with physical training only, which has been going on for over a month now since the boxers came out of the mandatory quarantine, barring the ones who joined the camp later.
“Bearing in mind that they were for a long time without a camp, without proper training and so on, they were in fairly good state (when they arrived) and have been able to improve since then. Some of them were a little heavy, which was expected, but it was pretty normal. They hadn’t lost as much as we feared,” Nieva further told TimesofIndia.com.
“(There is) Continuous improvement. We had physical tests….We are pretty much where we should be…I am talking particularly about the men because that’s what I focus on, but also the girls because I have seen them and worked with them. They are also looking good,” he added.
Raffaele Bergamasco is BFI’s designated women’s high performance director.
Nieva didn’t give any timeline of when he expects sparring to start because the pandemic graph has spiked over the past few weeks, and SAI will assess that before giving the go ahead.
Calls to get a response from SAI remained unanswered.
“We have to just make sure that we follow the guidelines and everything is going to be solved,” Nieva concluded on a positive note.
Nine Indian boxers have so far qualified for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021. (PTI/ToI)