Athletes back Olympic Federation of Ireland call for Covid-19 restrictions to be eased to assist Irish Olympians

Philip Doyle and Irish team-mate Ronan Byrne celebrate qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics

The Olympic Federation of Ireland’s call for exemptions to current Covid-19 restrictions to assist athletes has been supported by Irish competitors.

The OFI says restrictions, including a 5km travel limit in the Republic, put athletes “at a significant disadvantage that may become too big to breach”.

“The solution is a simple waiver,” said Peter Sherrard, OFI chief executive.

He added that different restrictions and thus training options in NI and the Republic of Ireland was a “concern”.

Sherrard noted that Banbridge rower Philip Doyle is training on the River Lagan and is unable to travel to the National Rowing Centre in Cork.

“There are also issues with UK guidelines on swimming for example and Irish athletes are wondering was system are they in,” he said.

Growing frustration

Sherry believes a waiver would help “this small number of athletes so that they can travel the required distance to train, just as their competitors internationally have been granted weeks ago. Frustrations of this nature are being experienced by elite athletes from a variety of sports.

“Our Olympic sports have all prepared very detailed protocols which have been reviewed medically for a return to the venues like the Sport Ireland Campus, the Sport Ireland Institute and the National Aquatic Centre and National Rowing Centre, in advance of, and in isolation from the general public, as is happening in other European countries.”

The OFI said it has “called for a number of straightforward measures to be put in place to support prospective Olympic and Paralympic athletes during the current crisis. Sport Ireland, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the relevant ministers have all been working very hard to request minor exemptions for Olympic and Paralympic athletes but unfortunately there has been no green light to their requests to date.

“The situation is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more competitor nations return to training, putting Irish athletes at a significant disadvantage that may soon become too big to breach.”

World champion rower and two-time Olympian Sanita Puspure said the restrictions could “absolutely” be the difference between winning a medal or not.

OFI chief executive Peter Sherrard believes Irish athletes are losing ground on rivals

And the Team Ireland Athletes’ Commission says exemptions would allow competitors ‘to compete on a level playing field’.

It added: “For some athletes not only are they watching their counterparts in other countries returning to national team training, they are watching other Irish athletes return, athletes competing in the same sport and on the same teams, just because they live marginally closer to a venue.

“We are talking about athletes who are aiming to be in peak condition in a matter of months, who may still need to qualify and who will be fighting for medals at the Olympic Games next year.

“It is hard to fathom that there are cases where recreational athletes have a better access to facilities than athletes targeting Tokyo, simply because of where they live.”

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