Bans placed on athletes at Youth Olympics over Ebola fears

Bans placed on athletes at Youth Olympics over Ebola fears

GENEVA – Reuters
Bans placed on athletes at Youth Olympics over Ebola fears

Thousands of young athletes will converge in China's Nanjing this week for the second Youth Olympics. AFP Photo

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned athletes from west African countries affected by the deadly Ebola virus from competing in some events at the Youth Olympics, starting in China this weekend.

The IOC released a statement on Aug. 15 saying that while there were no suspected cases, organizers had decided to bar three athletes from competing in combat sports and events in the pool as a precaution.

“We have been reassured by the health authorities that there have been no suspected cases and that the risk of infection is extremely unlikely,” the statement read.

“Together we have developed a policy which balances the health needs of all, with respect for the rights of the young athletes from the region.”

The IOC said the decision to ban some athletes from competing had been made in conjunction with the organizing committee from Nanjing under the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO), which said on Aug. 14 that the scale of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been vastly underestimated and “extraordinary measures” were needed to contain the disease.

The WHO said in a statement it was coordinating “a massive scaling up of the international response,” in a bid to tackle the worst epidemic of hemorrhagic fever-causing virus since its discovery four decades ago.

“Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” it said.

The IOC said all countries were welcome to attend the Games, which will run from Aug. 16-28, but athletes from the affected region would be subject to regular physical tests.

“We regret that due to this issue some young athletes may have suffered twice, both from the anguish caused by the outbreak in their home countries and by not being able to compete in the Youth Olympic Games,” the IOC said.

The world’s worst outbreak of Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people with another 2,000 suspected cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.