January 19, 2021

Coronavirus in the UK: Elite athletes must not abuse exemption – Emily Diamond

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Emily Diamond competes at the 2019 World Championships for Great Britain
Emily Diamond (left) is hoping to represent Great Britain at the delayed Tokyo Olympics later this year

British sprinter Emily Diamond has urged elite athletes not to abuse the exemption that allows them to train and compete during the national lockdown.

The Olympic bronze medallist fears several examples of recent breaches could “ruin it” for others.

In recent days, there has been heightened scrutiny of the elite sport dispensation from the UK government.

“It is disappointing to see things that look like they’re being taken for granted,” she told BBC Sport.

Diamond, 29, said she worries that if the exemption is removed it could impact on her ability to perform at her best at the Olympics.

She believes the dressing room celebrations in the FA Cup last weekend were “not necessary”.

In response to the scenes of Chorley’s players singing together following their 2-0 FA Cup third-round victory over Derby, she posted on social media: “Please don’t ruin it for all elite sport, football”.

Crawley players were also seen breaking protocols as they celebrated beating Premier League side Leeds United.

“It would be such a shame if these minority videos stop it then for everyone,” said the 200m and 400m runner.

“I didn’t mean to put all the emphasis on football but I think because football obviously is such a big sport in the country and it’s got such a massive fanbase and it gets most of the headlines.”

Elite athletes have also faced criticism for mid-season trips to the United Arab Emirates, where Diamond is currently on a British Athletics training camp.

The UAE was on the government’s exemption list, although it is being removed from the UK list of travel corridors.

Scottish champions Celtic faced criticism from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after a turbulent visit to Dubai. The warm weather training trip brought a positive test for defender Christopher Jullien, which left 13 other players – along with manager Neil Lennon and assistant John Kennedy – needing to self-isolate when they arrived back in Glasgow.

A number of Women’s Super League matches were also postponed after several players from different clubs travelled to Dubai.

“I just wanted everyone who has been given that elite sport exemption to just not take that for granted and to not ruin it for the sportspeople out there who aren’t taking it for granted and are being super strict with what they’re doing,” said Diamond.

“Yes you can still go to the track or still go to the gym or football pitch to train and have your match but once that is done you are back to non-elite and the guidelines and the lockdown.”

Diamond, who won 400m relay bronze at Rio 2016, said she feels in a “very privileged position” to be able to travel away from the UK and continue with her preparations for Tokyo.

In response to some negative comments from fans, claiming that track and field athletes had not been following protocols in Dubai, she said: “I know some people have been a bit disappointed seeing Instagram stories and photos being published of athletes out in Dubai.

“I haven’t seen these personally myself, I want to apologise on behalf of the athletes out here that if these videos have been posted and have upset people back home then I don’t think that is acceptable.”

However, she emphasised athletes have been given the same protocols to follow as in the UK, and that their coronavirus tests have all come back negative.

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