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U.S. athletes attempting to compete in the Winter Olympics will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 under a groundbreaking new policy announced by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee on Wednesday.

CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that from November 1, the USOPC will require that staff, athletes and others using USOPC training centers and other facilities be vaccinated.

The requirement, she said, “will also apply to our entire Team USA delegation to future Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

According to the team’s website, athletes will be required to show proof of vaccination by December 1. The United States is expected to send around 240 athletes to the Winter Olympics, although the tenure will affect hundreds more – anyone with hopes of making the final squad.

The International Olympic Committee encouraged vaccines but did not require them for athletes who competed in the Summer Olympics. With this advice, most National Olympic Committees, including the USOPC, have followed suit by strongly recommending vaccines but not requiring them. The first IOC Playbook, a booklet offering health and other tips for the Winter Games, is due out next month.

Earlier this year, about 83% of the more than 600 U.S. athletes who qualified for Tokyo were selected in time for the Summer Games, according to the USOPC’s final tally. The IOC estimated that around 85% of all athletes in the Olympic Village had been vaccinated.

There were Americans, including golfer Bryson DeChambeau and swimmer Michael Andrew, who spoke openly about not being shot. DeChambeau ended up testing positive shortly before he was supposed to travel to Japan and missed the games, while Andrew said he had already contracted COVID-19 and did not have intend to be vaccinated.

In his letter, Hirshland said the USOPC had hoped that many COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted by the end of the Tokyo Games.

“The harsh reality is that this pandemic is far from over,” she wrote. “This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for athletes and Team USA staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and athlete service.”

Hirshland said there would be a process for athletes to request an exemption.

The USOPC’s policy diverges from those of other U.S. sports organizations, including the NFL and NBA, which do not have a mandate. Neither does the NHL, although it has strict protocols for unvaccinated players, including stipulations that allow teams to suspend unvaccinated players if they miss games due to COVID-19 or travel restrictions. related to the virus.

The NHL has an agreement to allow some of its players to participate in the Olympics.

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