In recent weeks, the vaccine mandates have become more common across the United States as health officials try to find ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. The new rules can affect many aspects of daily life, from eating a meal in a restaurant in some cities to planning a trip abroad. But the final term will have a significant impact on those who go for gold, as officials have announced that all U.S. athletes vying for a podium spot. at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will be banned from competition if they are not vaccinated.
In a letter released on September 22, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced that it would require that “all USOPC personnel, athletes and those who use USOPC facilities, including including training centers, either fully vaccinated against COVID-19“in the run-up to the Winter Games. The new requirements will take effect on November 1.
The mandate also states that athletes wishing to join the US delegation and compete in Beijing must have proof of vaccination by December 1. So far, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not announced that it will require all athletes to be vaccinated for the Games, which start on February 4, followed by the Paralympics on March 4. The USOPC has said it will allow medical or religious exemptions as long as athletes provide them by November 1, but anyone who is not vaccinated should be tested daily for COVID-19.
“The harsh reality is that this pandemic is far from over,” Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the USOPC, wrote in the letter, according to Reuters. “This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for athletes and Team USA staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and athlete service.”
The new regulations mark a significant change from the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games held over the summer, where competing athletes were encouraged but not required to be shot. About 83 percent of the United States team were vaccinated as they vied for medals there. At the same time, the IOC estimates that over 80 percent of all Olympians who resided in the Athletes’ Village have been vaccinated, The New York Times reports. Ultimately, 28 athletes tested positive for the virus before and during competition, while 13 tested positive during the Paralympic Games.
The announcement of the new rules a month before the IOC will publish an action plan outlining COVID-19 prevention protocols for all athletes invited to the Winter Games. The USOPC move also comes as some have started to wonder how far China will enforce rules such as the forced quarantine of visitors, media and event staff.
The new regulations are also the first from a US sports outlet that require players and participants to get vaccinated in order to participate. Currently none of the others major North American professional sports leagues have such rules in place for players.