SYDNEY — Australian athletes are being asked to arrive in quarantine twice before they can compete in next month’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.
National team officials at the Games, which take place in four host cities across Australia between April 4 and 15, decided to issue the special visas after discovering some athletes had left Australia without waiting until certain stages of their quarantine process had been completed.
The decision drew international criticism, particularly from those that are competing. These include Australia’s track and field team, which includes Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson, as well as other potential medal winners from London 2012 and Tokyo 2020.
Upon arriving in Australia, athletes receive a clearance from the national team’s home office, which is then sent to the Australian Commonwealth Games Federation for further checks. They are expected to return to the home office six days after they arrive, which is the minimum time frame within which athletes have to leave the country.
However, it later transpired that some athletes left Australia before the required period and were given the new visas, which will apply to their next two performances, or, if their next appearance was in a Diamond League event, their next performance overseas.
“Not all athletes of the Commonwealth Games team received clearances and we’re treating these as priority and launching a full investigation into these irregularities,” said Jason Hellwig, the chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation’s medical commission.
He confirmed the athletes concerned were not permitted to continue competing until their clearance was received, but refused to name the athletes involved.
“There are athletes who have left Australia by no fault of their own. They have completed all the aspects of the biosecurity check which took place prior to leaving and gone through all normal processes that normally apply, but we can’t guarantee that the approval has been given,” Hellwig said.
“That process (clearing athletes) is being conducted on a daily basis, within the, you know, seven-day period before an athlete can leave the territory. We believe we’ve done everything we can within the framework, and I’d think we will see progress, but obviously it’s going to take time, because there are a number of people involved in these investigations, and I’m comfortable with the progress I’m seeing.”
With the release of the timetable for various sports at the Games, as well as the venues, it has emerged that the most significant change to the shortlist of track and field events that will take place in Australia has come from the Indian competition, with the Commonwealth Games debut of the 1,500-meter race being pushed back to May 19.
The move means that Pearson, who is set to defend her 400-meter title, will have to wait until the Games in April to attempt to win her first gold medal in the metric mile. She will take part in the 1,500m, along with a potential final in the 5,000m, on Day One of the Games.