ASA deems lives of athletes too valuable to risk

Athletics South Africa has written to the Minister of Sport, Nathi Mthethwa, informing him that the athletics body has opted to priotise lives during the current period of the Corona Virus pandemic. This follows carefull consideration by the ASA Board who noted that the COVID-19 virus infection rate is rapidly rising in South Africa, making the risk to our athletes and other role-players getting infected and facing the grave consequences of death, very real. On 30 May 2020 Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa, announced the staggered opening of professional non-contact sport and opening of facilities to professional athletes for training. This is in reference to the Risk Adjustment Strategy of Level 3 under National Disaster Act. As a result, ASA has resolved not to host any national activities or participate at international events until ASA deems it is safe to do so or until it is expertly advised by the Department of Sport and World Athletics, that it is medically safe to host events at national and international stage. And once expertly advised by the Department of Sport, ASA will then take the responsibility to assess and decide on the appropriate way forward. ASA has taken comparison to the protocol models of World Athletics, other bodies and other countries, and reached a decision that none of them addresses the current dire scenario faced by South Africa and athletics. “Even though athletics has been classified as a non-contact sport, it has unavoidable dynamics that may not be controlled during the action of competition and therefore making transmission a dangerous reality,” said Aleck Skhosana, the President of ASA. “ASA has chosen to be extra-ordinary cautious because one infection or one death, would be one too many for our sport, especially when we knew that this is an avoidable situation.” ASA programmes and activities continue to be either postponed or cancelled and will be opened when it is time to do so and when we deem it safe to. There are many professional and non-professional athletes who come from impoverished communities and are far from medical centres. They too, must be equally protected from infections and from possible death. “Our athletes insurance does not cover COVID-19 and its complications thereafter, which insurers are very clear that they do not provide cover for. In the wake of this reality, ASA advises and encourages permitted athletes, coaches and support teams to only use private facilities because they have cover. “The ASA Board has decided that, instead all effort will be concentrated in ensuring that not a single life of an athlete, coach, support teams, event staff, volunteers and all involved, is lost because of COVID-19. “We are not convinced as ASA that we should put athletes and coaches in a position that is not safe, and we do not want to see anyone from the athletics family form part of the statistics. We value every life. And that, to ASA, comes first. “We continue to align ourselves fully with existing government protocols because as ASA we cannot create a protocol that can save a life of an athlete, coach or any role-player.” ASA continues to be very firm that athletes and the entire athletics family must follow the rules and regulations as set by the government. This includes rules and regulations governing the daily order of life and those around the availability of the stadiums and related facilities. Athletes and coaches must follow that to the letter. Athletes based at or using tertiary facilities and private facilities that have applied and been granted such permission to host such training, are normally covered by insurance of those institutions.