USATF says vaccines not mandatory for Tokyo-bound athletes

June 8 (Reuters) - USA Track & Field (USATF), the governing body of American athletics, said on Tuesday its athletes do not have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the Tokyo Olympics but it will be compulsory for all staff members making the trip.

USATF Chief Executive Max Siegel, speaking on a video call with a small group of reporters, said they have been pretty aggressive in terms of encouraging vaccination and have not heard of any pushback from athletes.

"We have mandated for our staff to be vaccinated. We have encouraged, but not mandated, our athletes to be vaccinated," said Siegel. "We've done a lot in terms of education to our athletes and coaches on how to mitigate risk."

The USATF will hold its Olympic trials from June 18-27 in Eugene, Oregon, where the governing body said anyone who gets near an athlete will already have been vaccinated.

According to Siegel, the USATF's COVID-19 protocols exceed the playbook of rules prepared by Games organisers with regards to infection control and that its Journey to Gold series of meets has given athletes a feel for what to expect.

"In real time they have been accustomed to the testing protocol," said Siegel. "They've been in the environment with our Journey to Gold competitions and that has really been an opportunity for us to further educate them on movement, risk mitigation and those kinds of things."

The USATF said personal coaches will be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics but they are still working through protocols in terms of logistics as to when they arrive, how they can contact their athletes and if they will be allowed into the venue.

"To simply say it, they will have to stay within a bubble, so to speak, as it relates to their athletes," said USATF Chief Operating Officer Renee Washington.

"And then, maybe for the final, if they go outside of that bubble and they want to actually go into the stadium that will be the last contact with the athlete."

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond

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