No shopping. No visits to barbers or beauty parlours. No sauna or ice baths. No interaction with ‘outsiders.’ No hugs. And no social gatherings, including birthday celebrations. When India’s elite track and field athletes resume training, they will have to adhere to strict guidelines set by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). Apart from enforcing social distancing and personal hygiene norms while training, the AFI’s draft protocols also prohibit campers from making any non-essential contact.
The 22-point undertaking, which is likely to be made official on Tuesday, will be mandatory for athletes as well as coaching and support staff who will be part of the training camp. “Any coach or athlete not following the advisory of athletics federation on schedule of training will be asked to stop the training immediately by supervisors,” the guidelines warned.
The sports ministry has not yet set a date for athletes to be able to restart training, which has come to a complete halt since the lockdown was enforced on March 25. On Monday, following the Ministry of Home Affairs’ order, sports minister Kiren Rijiju said that ‘sports activities will be conducted in sports complexes and stadia strictly in accordance with MHA guidelines and that of the states in which they are situated.’
A Sports Authority of India (SAI) official said they will now work towards restarting the national camps, starting with the centres in Bengaluru and Patiala, where athletes are already staying. The track and field athletes, who are all at the National Institute of Sport in Patiala, will be given an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts before they can get back to work. According to the guidelines, the athletes will ‘not (be) permitted to leave hostel other than for training or for any treatment / rehabilitation.’
They have also been instructed to leave the hostel just five minutes before their training begins and will not be allowed to ‘loiter around the training area or outside the hostel rooms’. Moreover, they will have to train in small groups and ‘strictly adhere (to) the duration of training.’ “Athletes are not allowed to train in any group or time other than scheduled by AFI,” the guidelines read.
The restrictions imposed on them during off-time are even more stringent. The athletes, as per the guidelines, will not be allowed to go shopping, visit a hairdresser or beauty parlour. “Athletes are not allowed to go out of campus and are not (to) order any food packed or unpacked,” it further stated. “No courier or parcel will be accepted by athletes directly and should be kept minimum 24 hours away and to be sanitised.”
To ensure maximum distancing, they will be advised to not have any ‘interaction with outsiders’. Even the storekeepers and groundsmen will be told to stay away from the training areas while a session is going on, and the coaches will be responsible for getting equipment and other assistance for training.’
The athletes will also be cautioned against ‘spitting inside the campus or training places’, which the advisory added, is ‘punishable under the rules of Government of India.’ “No shake hand or hugging to any friends and no gathering like birthday etc inside the hostel or outside hostel,” the guidelines said. “Must have a shower immediately after returning from training.”
An AFI official said these measures have been put in place keeping in mind the health of athletes. “We had already submitted our Standard Operating Procedure to the SAI. However, we believe it is essential that the health of the athletes is not compromised. Hence, we came up with this policy. It is strict, but it is for the well-being of athletes,” the official said. “It is right now a draft. We might add more points and make it official on Tuesday.”
Apart from these points, the athletes follow the guidelines set by the SAI, which include undergoing COVID-19 tests for those returning to the training facilities and mandatory quarantine until the test results are declared.