New Delhi (IANS) Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Secretary General Rajeev Mehta believes that the training of athletes shouldn't start as of now as the COVID-19 cases are increasing at a rapid rate with each passing day in the country.
On Thursday, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) released the standard operating procedures (SOP), approved by the sports ministry, for athletes to follow while training amid coronavirus pandemic which has claimed more than 3,500 lives in the country so far.
"It is being predicted that COVID-19 will peak in June. Despite lockdown restrictions, cases are increasing day by day. So, in such a scenario, what's the rush to start training of athletes?" Mehta told IANS.
"Athletes are assets of our country and it is our responsibilty to provide safety to them. Some of the athletes have even qualified for the Olympics and they will be participating in the Tokyo Games without a doubt," he added.
He said that neither the IOA, nor the state associations or the government should force the athletes to resume their training.
"It is upto the athletes whether they want to go out for training or not. But this liability and pressure on the athletes should not be from the state federations, IOA or even the government," he said.
"I don't understand what the rush to start with the training. It's my personal opinion that training should not start as of now as it will put the athletes in risk. Let the COVID-19 situation come in some sort of control."
Athletes have been asked to maintain social distancing norms and sanitisation of equipment according to the SOP issued by SAI. It is also stated in the SOP that before starting training, all athletes would have to sign a ‘Training Consent Form' acknowledging the risk associated with resuming training.
Earlier on Thursday, IOA President Narinder Batra informed Mehta that some of his responsibilities as secretary general would be withdrawn. In an email, Batra said: "I have decided to take over/divide much of your workload and will be doing the needful in days to come and since I am Delhi based and few other people who are regularly coming to Delhi will now have to share the divided responsibilities/burden."
However, the IOA Secretary General feels he is not at all overburdened and that he is comfortable with his duties.
"I don't know what happened. Everything is defined in our constitution and all duties are assigned to the people. It was a sudden event that I was informed that some of my duties are being withdrawn," Mehta said.
"The President thinks that I have more responsibilities and burdens. Although, I don't think so. I am comfortable with all my duties that are assigned to me," he added.