New Delhi: Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Narinder Batra on Thursday urged the National Sports Federations to be "conscious and careful" while planning foreign training and competitions for their athletes given the widespread "fear" of COVID-19 infection.
Batra said athletes and officials travelling abroad for training and competitions should be careful and restrict their movements. India's own COVID-19 daily case count surpassed the 3 lakh mark on Thursday with more than 2,000 deaths.
"Due to ongoing increase in the numbers of COVID-19 cases, there is fear of infection to the athletes and officials in the camps and to those who are planning for travelling abroad," Batra said in a statement addressed to IOA members and NSFs.
"I advise/request you to be very conscious and careful before taking decision to travel. It becomes the responsibility of each one of us to be very careful while travelling. We must restrict our movements."
The IOA chief's advice came after judokas and boxers tested positive for the virus during tournaments abroad, leading to the withdrawal of the entire Indian teams.
The 15-member judo team was forced to withdraw from the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifiers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, after two judokas tested positive for COVID-19 just before the start of the tournament earlier this month.
Prior to that, Olympic-bound boxer Ashish Kumar tested positive on the eve of the Boxam International final in Castellon, Spain, leading to his withdrawal along with that of Sumit Sangwan (81kg) and Mohammed Hussamuddin (57kg) who were his roommates.
Besides, Sports Authority of India's aggressive testing at various national camps has thrown up a significant number of positive cases at centres in Patiala, Bengaluru, Bhopal and Delhi.
Batra said federations must check quarantine norms thoroughly before sending athletes abroad as different countries have different rules.
"Those travelling abroad must know the local laws of quarantine. It is informed that in some countries the foreign travellers have to go into quarantine for 14 days.
"In that case, the athletes will not be able to train for such long time, which can totally jeopardise the training of the athletes. It is therefore the (duty of) federations along with the athletes and the officials to do proper due diligence before travelling abroad."
The Athletics Federation of India is planning to send javelin throwers, including Neeraj Chopra, and quartermilers (including those for 4x100m and 4x400m relays) to Turkey later this month for a training-cum-competition tour.
A 20-member Indian athletics squad will also take part in the World Relays to be held in Poland on May 1 and 2, with the top eight finishers in the 4x100m and 4x400m booking automatic berths for the Tokyo Olympics.
"We must own full responsibility of travelling and the athletes must be fully aware of the consequences that may arise due to the ongoing pandemic world wide.
"The dates for the Olympics are approaching fast and athletes along with help of Federation/SAI are making all efforts to provide the best training and competitions to the athletes for the participation in Olympics."
Around 80 Indian athletes have so far qualified for the postponed Tokyo Olympics which opens on July 23.