NEW DELHI: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju spoke to TOI on how the government plans to prepare its Olympic-bound athletes despite the rise in number of Covid-19 cases countrywide. He also clarified his stance on the recent protocol breach by three boxers and a team doctor returning positive for Covid-19 during the quarantine period at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) Patiala.
Excerpts from the interview:
Isn’t it too risky to organise camps when the cases are rising and some state governments have imposed fresh lockdowns?
We are passing through an extraordinary situation due to the pandemic and therefore, the government’s approach to commencement of training for our Olympics-bound-athletes would be to tread with caution, keeping their health and safety in mind. However, we cannot put them at a disadvantage by delaying their training. Therefore, camps will have to be held, while making a thorough situation appraisal. Decisions will be made on a case-to-case basis. The lockdown in many states is an added challenge, like in Bengaluru, where our athletes have not been able to join the camp. We have to work keeping all these factors in mind.
What’s the status of camps in boxing, shooting, wrestling and cycling disciplines?
The camps are being resumed in phases as per the situation in the states. The boxers are already in Patiala, but are going through an extended quarantine. Once the quarantine is over, they will resume training as per the SOP laid down. The shooting facility has been opened up and all Olympic-bound shooters are free to resume their training. The other camps will surely start but the training of athletes bound for Tokyo is our priority at this juncture.
Would SAI like to revisit its SOP and quarantine policy in view of the Covid-19 positive case and the protocol breach by boxers at NIS?
Due care is being taken of athletes at Patiala and Bengaluru centres. I had personally interacted with athletes and coaches of hockey, athletics and weightlifting while they were in the camps. They were very happy with the steps taken by SAI to maintain a sanitised atmosphere in the camps. The breach of protocol by someone and the doctor contracting Covid-19 while in quarantine shouldn’t deter us, nor should these be seen as a shortcoming of the SOP document prepared for the camps. At the same time, all elite athletes are our national assets and role models for the nation. Athletes are conscious of the fact that they are setting an example for others. SAI will do whatever is best for athletes. The comfort and feedback from athletes is of paramount importance to us.
What steps have been taken by the ministry to get the recognition of NSFs back?
The issue is in the court and the judicial process will follow its course. I am hopeful that in a month or two, the government will be able to recognise the NSFs again. The government has asked the federations concerned to take corrective measures immediately.


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