The Australian swimming legend and five-time Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe stated that the athletes should not put the dreams of winning an Olympic medal before their health while deciding whether to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Australian as global health authorities are fighting it out to contain the deadly novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
The flu-like virus which is believed to have originated from the central part of China has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide while it has claimed the lives of over 2,800 people around the world. The vast majority of the cases were registered in China.
Many international sports events have been cancelled due to coronavirus
A number of international sports events have been hit by the coronavirus, with some competitions being postponed and others cancelled outright, and there are concerns that the outbreak might scupper the Tokyo Olympics.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound told Reuters on Wednesday that organisers would "reluctantly" have to cancel the Games if the coronavirus developed into a serious pandemic. Thorpe said athlete safety should come above all else. "I would most definitely be concerned," the five-time Olympic champion told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
"What we need to know is to use some of the best expert disease specialists to find out what is the risk to the team. What is the risk to the other nations and how can we have an Olympic Games, one that is safe, that doesn't put athletes at risk?
"I think the decision should come down to each individual athlete. But whether or not they want to compete, that they should take their health into consideration first." Australia's Olympic team chef de mission Ian Chesterman said on Wednesday the coronavirus was a serious concern but athletes were being instructed to prepare as if they were going to Tokyo as scheduled.
(With agency inputs)