Medical checks must before joining national camps: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju

Rijiju said the coronavirus-forced nationwide lockdown, which has been extended till May 17, forced his ministry to delay the resumption of the training camps.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju (Photo | PTI)
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: The sports ministry is planning to get athletes back on the ground as early as the situation permits, but with strict medical protocols. Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju assured on Sunday that athletes — especially those who have qualified for Olympics, or are on the verge of it, or are likely to — would be given preference to join national camps. However, they have to go through strict medical screening. They will be quarantined if need be, as the ministry doesn’t want to jeopardise the health of those who are already at the venues.   Rijiju said the ministry’s priority is to allow athletes who are at SAI centres to train.

As reported by this daily, national camps for Olympic-bound athletes will resume at the National Institute of Sport (NIS) in Patiala and Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru by the end of May. This was announced during FICCI’s webinar on Sunday.

The minister said that medical experts will be consulted and strict protocols will be put in place before opening the camps. Since those in athletics can train alone, their camps may be allowed before other contact or team sports. But basic social-distancing needs to be maintained, he stressed.

For contact sports, medical experts will be consulted before going ahead. Restrictions will be there for sparring partners, who will most likely have to undergo on 14-day quarantine before joining camps.“The camps will start in a phase-wise manner. First, we will start training at NIS (Patiala) and SAI (Bengaluru) where athletes are currently based... Then other sports will follow,” he said.

Rijiju said the extension of the lockdown — till May 17 —forced the ministry to delay the resumption of training camps. They were suspended in the middle of march. “We will relax things partially, looking at Olympics,” he added.

Explaining the delay in resumption, Rijiju said, “I thought of starting training of athletes at SAI centres from May 3 (initially-slated end for the lockdown). Now we will have to do that in a phased manner by the end of this month. Sports events don’t get any relaxations under Disaster Management Act. We don’t fall under the category of essential services.”

However, Rijiju made it clear that athletes of disciplines that are not in Olympic reckoning will have to wait longer. “We will not allow any national camps beyond Olympic-bound athletes or probables. Resumption of such camps may have to wait till September or October.” The minister also said that fans will have to wait for a while to attend sports events, till the pandemic is brought under control.

Rijiju urged people, including athletes, to expect a lot of changes in their day-to-day life and functioning even after the situation normalises. “We must accept that things are not going to be as they used to be. We have chalked out certain plans. We are also looking forward to see how India takes up this challenge and emerges as a strong sporting nation post-COVID-19. Coronavirus is a reality. It is not going to get over soon. We will have to live with it.”

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The New Indian Express