Olympic officials defended rules that forced a US medal contender out of the Tokyo Games on Friday, after a Republican senator suggested without evidence that the pole vaulter’s Covid-19 test was a “false positive.”
Pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, a Mississippi native, was barred from competing in the Games on Thursday after testing positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the track and field events.
However, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., suggested that the test that disqualified him was “almost certainly a false positive.”
“This is an injustice that can still be corrected if the Olympic Committee is fair,” Wicker said later Thursday on the Senate floor. Wicker stated that Kendricks was disqualified “without regard for the fact that his test, one of thousands of tests administered daily, may very well have been a fluke!”
“I am outraged, outraged that a young athlete is being denied an opportunity to showcase his talent to the world and win a gold medal on behalf of his country,” Wicker continued.
At a press conference on Friday, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams stated that every athlete competing in the games is treated equally. If their saliva test results in a positive result for Covid-19, they will be retested right away. “I can’t speak about the specific case, but that’s what happens in all cases,” Adams explained.
“He and everyone else will be subject to the same stringent protocols because it is critical to instill trust in everyone. We also cannot make exceptions for individuals for obvious reasons. I’m afraid everyone has to follow the rules.”
However, the IOC stated on Friday that it would make an effort to improve conditions for athletes who are quarantined due to coronavirus. This comes after Dutch taekwondo competitor Reshmie Oogink drew international attention when she described her confinement as a “Olympic jail” on Instagram. Kendricks, 28, is a two-time world pole vault champion and one of the top American hopes for gold in the track and field competition, which began Friday at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
Wicker stated that Kendricks had Covid-19 in the past and “should be immune.” However, it was unclear whether Kendricks had been vaccinated, and he did not directly answer the question during a June 14 zoom call with reporters. Kendricks, a Mississippi native and first lieutenant in the United States Army reserve, created one of the most memorable moments of the Rio Olympics when he stopped in mid-sprint, set down his pole, and stood at attention when he heard the United States national anthem being played during a medal ceremony on the other side of the stadium.
The vaccination rate for Team USA is 83 percent, implying that up to 100 American athletes in Tokyo are unvaccinated.
According to the most recent figures, only 27 percent of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated. In recent days, a record number of new Covid cases have been reported in Tokyo, which has been declared a state of emergency, with all spectators barred from watching athletes compete at Olympic venues.
On Friday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 3,300 new positive Covid-19 cases, a slight decrease from the previous day’s record of 3,865 new cases.
In addition, the Japanese government declared new states of emergency in three prefectures surrounding Tokyo and in the city of Osaka.