January 19, 2021

Olympic & Paralympic athletes face vaccine ‘moral dilemma’ – Neil Fachie

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Cyclist Neil Fachie is set to compete at his fourth Paralympic Games this summer
Cyclist Neil Fachie is set to compete at his fourth Paralympic Games this summer

Athletes face a “moral dilemma” if given priority for the Covid-19 vaccine prior to this summer’s Tokyo Games, said Scottish Paralympian Neil Fachie.

And sprinter Zoey Clark – hoping to make her Olympics debut – says it “will not sit right” with her if athletes take precedence over vulnerable people.

Dick Pound, of the International Olympic Committee, has suggested competitors should be high up the priority list for the vaccine.

Fachie, 36, said it is a moral dilemma.

“It’s an interesting one,” he said. “When that news broke, I was speaking to some of my team-mates about it and the moral dilemma.

“We’re fairly young, fit people who would not be considered high risk for Covid. And the last thing you want to do is take a vaccine away from someone who needs it far more.

“It’s not a great place to be. Should we get offered the vaccine then I imagine I would take it, but there’s definitely a question mark of am I really deserving or not?”

Fellow Scot Clark, 26, believes athletes will “probably” have to be vaccinated for the Games to go ahead.

“Those most at risk have to be vaccinated first,” said Clark. “That being said, if someone offered me the vaccine I would 100% take it.”

The rescheduled 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, due to begin on 23 July and 24 August respectively, remain in doubt with Tokyo having declared a state of emergency over a rise in Covid-19 cases.

The uncertainty has led to an increase in mental health concerns among elite athletes, according to charity Sporting Minds, and Fachie – who has a Paralympic gold and two silvers – says it does have a “destabilising” effect.

“There were many who struggled when the Games were postponed last year, because we sit down four years before the Olympics and set this one day in your calendar that you need to be at your best,” he said.

“It’s a huge life-changing event and if it doesn’t happen, it’s like grieving for the opportunity that’s been taken away from you.”

Clark, who is aiming to represent Team GB in the relay and individual sprint, added: “The Olympics is the pinnacle of your career and everything you work towards.

“Obviously, the uncertainty is there again for this year but we have to prepare like it will go ahead.”