U.S. track federation joins swimming in urging Olympics delay

US Olympic leaders are facing a growing rebellion within their ranks about holding the Tokyo Games.

A board member of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee responded to the leadership by criticizing the IOC, and the US Track and Field chief added to the call for postponement because of the explosive coronavirus crisis.

USATF CEO Max Siegel sent a two-page note to his U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee counterpart Sarah Hirshland asking the federation to argue for delay. It was late on Friday, just hours after the CEO of USA Swimming sent a similar letter.

Now, the sports responsible for 65 of America’s 121 medals and 175 of the 554 athletes at the last summer games, in Siegel’s words, “urge the USOPC, as the leader of the Olympic Movement, to voice and speak for the athletes. ‘

Also focused on leadership was Steve Mesler, a USOPC board member and Olympic bobsleigh champion. In a blog post on Friday, Mesler has expressed much more criticism of the IOC than Hirshland or its chairman, Susanne Lyons, in previous statements and interviews.

“The (IOC) has not shown the leadership that we Olympians require from those in charge,” Mesler wrote, cautiously emphasizing that these were his thoughts “as an Olympian and not that of the USOPC, its Board of Directors, or are leaders. “

Other national committees also call on the IOC to act. The federations in Norway and Brazil have been made public with requests for postponement.

“Our clear recommendation is that the Tokyo Olympics will not take place until the global COVID-19 situation is firmly under control,” the Norwegian federation wrote in a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach.

However, it is the US that brings the largest contingent to any summer games and wins the most medals – both factors that have led NBC to pay billions to bring the games to television until 2032. The USOPC seems to be influencing conversations on almost every topic at the IOC, but the Federation is reluctant to use its power. She has spent years straining to smooth out strained relationships with her international partners.

And since Hirshland took over as CEO in 2018, the focus has been inward as the sexual abuse scandals that American sports have used have shifted focus to the well-being and safety of athletes.

Hirshland and Lyon insisted that the USOPC not sacrifice the safety of athletes in the current crisis. But they almost stopped to push the IOC to a reprieve.

“The decision on the games is not ours directly,” Lyons said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It lies with (the World Health Organization), the Japanese government and the IOC. Under no circumstances would the USOPC endanger athletes if they didn’t think it was safe. “

Runway and swim team leaders don’t seem to want to take that risk either, although the question is whether they will act for themselves – without the USOPC signing. The leader of the third sport that is the backbone of the Olympics – gymnastics – has sent a survey to athletes asking their opinion about what the attitude of American gymnastics should be.

USA Track and Field already had an answer, thanks in part to online conversations led by their athlete representatives.

“If you go there and spread the virus and you go back home to kill one child, one grandmother, father or even an athlete, is it worth it? The answer for us was no, “said Wallace Spearmon, the vice president of the USATF Athletes Council.

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