Tokyo 2020 athletes must put their health before their careers amid coronavirus outbreak, says Ian Thorpe

Five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe has warned athletes to put their health before Tokyo 2020 glory amid growing uncertainty surrounding this summer’s Olympic Games.

The outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has seen major sporting events in Japan suspended for two weeks following a request from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, though both the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have insisted that the Games will go ahead as planned.

With coronavirus infecting more than 80,000 people worldwide and killing more than 2,700 – the vast majority in China – several sporting events have been postponed or cancelled in an effort to stem the spread of the outbreak.

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Former IOC vice-president and the first World Anti-Doping Agency boss Dick Pound suggested earlier this week that organisers have a three-month window to decide whether Tokyo 2020 should go ahead or not, but Australian swimming great Thorpe believes that athletes must put their career aspirations aside when it comes to such a serious matter as their health.

“I would most definitely be concerned,” Thorpe said on Thursday.

“What we need to know is to use some of the best expert disease specialists to find out what is the risk to the team. What is the risk to the other nations and how can we have an Olympic Games, one that is safe, that doesn’t put athletes at risk?

“I think the decision should come down to each individual athlete. But whether or not they want to compete, that they should take their health into consideration first.”

Thorpe, who won three gold medals at Sydney 2000 and two more four years later in Athens, spoke after Australia’s Olympic team chef de mission Ian Chesterman said on Wednesday the coronavirus was a serious concern, though he did advise athletes to prepare as if they were going to Tokyo as scheduled.

The Olympics is due to get underway on 24 July, with Pound warning that the IOC will likely have to make a final decision by the end of May in order to allow the logistical preparations to go ahead.

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