Officials: Two boxers test positive for coronavirus after ‘irresponsible’ Olympic qualifier

As the International Olympic Committee comes under fire for waiting to postpone the Tokyo Games, one federation’s president is blasting the organization after two athletes tested positive for the coronavirus following a boxing qualifier last week in London.

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Turkish Boxing Federation president Eyup Gozgec said two unnamed Turkish boxers and their head coach tested positive for the virus in London. He added that the Road to Tokyo Event at the Copper Box Arena should have never taken place, according to The Guardian:

“While the whole world was taking extreme measures to deal with the virus, I am baffled that an IOC taskforce and the British government allowed the tournament to start even though many of us had concerns and almost every other sport had shut down,” he said. “It was irresponsible. And as a result, unfortunately three of our team have now tested positive.”

The Olympic boxing qualifier in London featured approximately 350 boxers from 40 different countries and began on March 14.

Coronavirus was well-known threat before Olympic qualifier

Just a day before the tournament began, the English Premier League had suspended its season following multiple positive coronavirus tests among its teams. The tournament was also held despite United Kingdom coronavirus cases rising from 204 to 798 in just 24 hours the day preceding the event, not to mention the risks of international travel.

The tournament was eventually suspended after three days of competition on March 16. Even when it was taking place, European Boxing Confederation president Franco Falcinelli reportedly warned that the risk of a boxer contracting the virus was “very high.”

Falcinelli has now been proven correct, and Gozgec has reportedly promised to write a complaint to the IOC that not enough medical precautions were taken at the venue and fighters’ hotels.

Gozgec is also reportedly writing a letter to other federations. The tone of the letter is not a happy one.

From the Guardian:

“Unfortunately, two of our athletes and our Turkish head coach have tested positive for the new type Covid-19 coronavirus after returning to Turkey from London,” he writes. “All of them are in treatment now and thankfully they are in good condition. This is the disastrous result of the irresponsibility of the IOC taskforce.

“This virus has been around since December 2019. Therefore, it is inevitable to ask why the European qualification event was not postponed before it even took place? They did not consider anyone’s health, which led them to organise this horrible event.”

Should these coronavirus cases be blamed on the IOC?

The threat of the coronavirus has been well-known for weeks. It was especially known in the sports world, where the NBA, MLB, NHL and many other leagues had suspended their seasons or events, mostly starting on March 12.

During those weeks, the IOC infamously denied even the possibility that the Olympics could be postponed. When pressed on whether the the IOC would later have to make a decision, spokesman Mark Adams told reporters on March 3 that the decision had already been made.

“No, we've made a decision,” he said. “And the decision is that the games go ahead.”

A general view of Copper Box Arena during day three of the Boxing Road to Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying event at the Copper Box Arena, London. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)
This photo was taken March 16, well after the threat of the coronavirus had been established. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Even as federations around the world called for a postponement, the IOC didn’t admit it was a possibility until March 22, just two days before the Games were postponed for real.

That delay was likely because a postponement would have been financially disastrous for the IOC and its partners, but, again, the writing had been on the wall for weeks. The virus wasn’t going away anytime soon, and a global event in which millions of spectators from across the globe converged on one packed city for two weeks was the last thing the world needed.

Stories like the Turkish boxers could be the repercussion of that delay, putting athletes and fans at risk of a global pandemic just so the IOC could hold a qualifier for an event that clearly wasn’t happening for more than a year.

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