What happens when Olympic athletes test positive for coronavirus?

Olympians are tested for COVID daily

What happens when Olympic athletes test positive for coronavirus?
What happens when Olympic athletes test positive for coronavirus?

What happens when an Olympic athlete tests positive for coronavirus?

Olympic organizers have known from the start that in spite of precautions some Olympians will test positive for COVID-19. They’ve devised a system to try and contain those cases as quickly as possible and limit the spread to other athletes and staff.

Olympic athletes quarantine when they first arrive and then after that they are tested every day for COVID with a saliva test. Anyone who tests positive will immediately be sent to a designated clinic for a nasal swab PCR test.

The athlete must remain isolated at the clinic to wait for those results, which take three to five hours. If that test is also positive then they will be moved to a designated hotel to be isolated and monitored by medical staff.

Athletes are not allowed to return to the Olympic Village to gather their things. Instead, a volunteer will be sent to get anything they need.



Athletes who test positive for COVID will not be allowed to compete. How long they stay isolated will be determined by Japanese health officials. A list of the athlete’s close contacts will be created. That’s considered anyone they were with for at least 15 minutes, closer than one meter apart and without a mask.

In the case of a team sport, that may include the entire team. Close contacts will be tested and potentially quarantined. A panel of eight doctors and 46 advisors will review every close contact and determine on a case-by-case basis who will be allowed to compete.

There is a 70-page booklet that explains the process and all the safety rules. The International Olympic Committee estimates that about 80% of the Olympians have been vaccinated. The daily testing is designed to pick up on any asymptomatic breakthrough cases.


About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.