Coronavirus Outbreak: Baton exchange, sparring barred in SAI’s SOP; athletes to sign consent forms before resumption of training

The form requires athletes to acknowledge that they understand that SAI cannot 'guarantee the complete elimination of the risks' associated with resumption of training amid the pandemic

Press Trust of India May 21, 2020 21:51:55 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: Baton exchange, sparring barred in SAI’s SOP; athletes to sign consent forms before resumption of training

New Delhi: Baton exchange won't be allowed in relay training, boxers will not have access to rings and only singles players will get to practice at indoor badminton courts, according to the Sports Authority of India's SOP for resumption of training, the timeline for which is still not clear.

Athletics, hockey, badminton, boxing and shooting were among the 11 disciplines which were permitted to resume outdoor training following relaxations in the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Weightlifters, archers, cyclists, fencers, wrestlers and paddlers too can resume training with requisite safety measures. The SOP, however, prohibits sparring for contact disciplines and has barred the use of swimming pools for now.

"Human sparring, use of boxing ring, etc. is prohibited," the SOP said.

The SAI's SOP came after the home ministry allowed the opening of sports complexes and stadia in its guidelines for the fourth phase of the lockdown, which has been extended till 31 May. But there has been no clarity on when the training will resume.

Even though the SOP will be "applicable with immediate effect", resumption of sports activities across the country will depend entirely on local administrations.

"The protocols of the SOP will be effective from immediate effect, but the logistics might take time," SAI secretary Rohit Bharadwaj said in an online press conference to unveil the SOP.

"The SOP is a broad reference document which can be customised according to local conditions, which means the guidelines of a state government can supersede the SOP at any time.

"We have categorised everything but all depends on local administrations' objections," he added.

The SAI secretary said the SOP is the first step towards restarting sporting activities across the country.

According to SAI SOP, a COVID Task Force must also be constituted at each training centre to guide and monitor all trainees and staff within the centres.

The Task Force will include the chief coaching staff from each NSF as its member.

The centre-in-charge will be the ex-officio chairman of the Task Force and responsible for overall implementation of protocols outlined in this SOP.

"The COVID Task Force shall work closely with the coaches and support staff to define guidelines and protocols," the SOP states.

Besides, the Task Force also has to ensure that each athlete and NSF provides a signed consent form declaring their acknowledgement of all the limitations and risks associated with training under current circumstances.

According to the laid down protocols and precautions for training, the SOP demands the NSFs to appoint a Hygiene Officer in every coaching camps to ensure safety of its athletes and staff.

"There shall be a Hygiene Officer from the NSF in case of National Coaching Camps to ensure compliance and implementation of all protective measures for athlete and staff safety," the SOP states.

Any athlete found to be in violation of the protocols will be removed from training immediately and reported to Hygiene Officer for "appropriate action".

Disinfection of training equipment after every use, a bar on sparring, and usage of gyms in shifts are among the measures to tackle the COVID-19 threat in SAI's SOP, released formally after approval from the sports and home ministry.

A six-member committee, headed by Bharadwaj, formulated the protocol.

The document makes Arogya Setu app mandatory for all athletes and staff and calls for strict social distancing at training venues.

Increased sanitation measures and stringent supervision of athletes' health are also among a slew of measures to prevent the deadly infection.

"The moto of the SOP is to restart sports activities. It gives us principles based on which activities can start but it is mandatory to comply with government guidelines," Bharadwaj said.

"Everything should be done in consultation with local authorities."

According to the SOP, training in all athletic events can resume but usage of high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault pit is not permitted unless available for personal use. It also prohibits contact or baton exchange in relay training.

The SOP states that all athletes must follow social distancing norms and should not share their training equipment with anyone.

The SAI said that its SOP is in addition to the existing guidelines issued by the central government and should be used as an additional document for sports.

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