Four Czech athletes, two team officials test positive for COVID-19

Investigation ongoing as Czech media blame team doctor

People take photos in front of the Tokyo Olympics countdown clock in front of Tokyo station on the day of the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, July 23, 2021. REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou
People take photos in front of the Tokyo Olympics countdown clock in front of Tokyo station on the day of the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, July 23, 2021. REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou

At least two Czech athletes will miss competitions after testing positive for COVID-19 in a string of cases connected to a charter flight carrying members of the team and officials to Tokyo.

Road cyclist Michal Schlegal is the latest Czech athlete to test positive forcing him out of Saturday’s road race, while beach volleyball player Markéta Nausch Sluková will have to sit our her scheduled match. A second beach volleyball athlete and table tennis player have also tested positive.

The cluster of cases related to the charter flight has caused a stir in the Czech Republic, especially after media reported that numerous passengers removed their masks after the plane took off. The country has six cases of coronavirus in total, all of whom have been placed in quarantine. An investigation into the potential disregard of safety measures is ongoing.

Much of the scrutiny surrounds a team doctor, Vlastimil Voracek, who was on the flight and is reportedly against vaccinations. According to Czech media outlet Seznam Zprávy, Voracek has conveyed outlandish theories about the COVID-19 pandemic, including the belief that people can protect themselves by regularly gargling with mouthwash.

Czech Republic prime minister Andrej Babiš has described the affair as scandalous and unfair to athletes,” Radio Prague International reports.

“Everywhere we convince people to be vaccinated and here the doctor of our delegation is not vaccinated,” Babiš said.

Czech NOC chef de mission Martin Doktor addressed the situation.

“We are extremely sorry about the whole situation – I was very worried that sports tragedies would happen, but the spread of the virus cannot be completely influenced by any of us trying to protect ourselves,” Doktor said.

According to one Czech journalist on the ground in Tokyo, the situation is “really a nightmare” and to his knowledge Voracek has yet to provide any comments.

The journalist angrily posted on his Facebook that these athletes traveled halfway across the globe only to lose their opportunity to compete without being to blame.

The Czech Olympic Committee said they’re working with Olympic organizers to contain the spread and moved some team members out of the Olympic Village.

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