The Tokyo Olympics looms as a compromised competition unable to live up the fair play charter of the Games, Australia’s swimmers say.
Swimming Australia (SA) have stopped short of calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone or cancel the Games.
But they’re appealing to the IOC to put fair play and health foremost when deciding if the Games, due to start on July 24, proceed.
SA believe severe restrictions on overseas countries and their athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic make it impossible for the Games to be held on level playing field.
“(It’s) obviously a massive disadvantage around the world now for athletes who are not in a position, and whole countries not in a position, anymore to prepare themselves,” SA’s head coach Jacco Verhaeren said on Friday.
“We really recognise how difficult it must be to make these decisions in uncertain times.
What we stand for as a team and in sport, and I think the whole Olympic movement stands for … is fair play and health.”
Several nations including Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands have closed high-performance sporting centres amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“The situation is severe … we have to make sure that we show empathy with our peers but also all the people in the world,” Verhaeren said.
“We are talking at the moment in Australia from a position of strength – we are nowhere near to the circumstances that other countries and athletes and coaches are exposed to.”
Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell said the coronavirus was “something that transcends sport”.
“We absolutely want the Games to go on, we are preparing for that,” she said.
“But we’re also acknowledging that we want a level playing field for everyone – and right now around the world, we are holding concern that people can’t achieve that.”
Next month’s national swim titles have been cancelled.
Elite swimmers remain in training but their Olympic trials, scheduled for June 14-16 in Adelaide, may not go ahead in the wake of government bans on mass gatherings.
Swimmers could be forced to trial in individual races at pools in their home state, rather than at one meeting.
“I’m not saying this is the solution because again we don’t know,” Verhaeren said.
“If all pools close, we have to look an an entirely different way of qualifying athletes.
“We don’t know. But we are basically preparing for everything.
“We are not assuming, although we would hope, that we could swim trials just as it is set up right now.”