Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., says a positive COVID-19 test should not have disqualified pole vaulter Sam Kendricks from competing in the Olympics.
Wicker made his comments Thursday on the Senate floor. His remarks came after Kendricks was blocked from competing Thursday after he tested positive, NBC News reported. Wicker suggested the test results could have been a "false positive."
"Almost certainly a false positive COVID-19 test," Wicker said. "This is an injustice that can still be rectified if the Olympic Committee will be fair. For those who don’t know Sam, he’s an alum of the University of Mississippi – Ole Miss – where he took back-to-back NCAA championships before launching his professional career.
"He won the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016 and went on to the Rio Olympics, where he took home the bronze medal.
"Then again, you probably do remember Sam Kendricks. He’s the pole vaulter who stopped mid-run in the 2016 Olympics to stand and salute for his national anthem.
"That’s Sam Kendricks, Olympic Champion from the state of Mississippi."
Wicker said by all accounts, Kendricks was expected to contend for a gold medal this year.
"But after testing negative for the COVID virus three times, Sam received a positive test result yesterday," he said. "The time frame was different in Tokyo, but it was Thursday.
"And under the International Olympic Committee rules, he was immediately disqualified from competition – even though he had previously tested negative three times, even though he has already had the coronavirus, and even though a follow up test administered according to U.S. Olympic standards came up negative. The rules are you got to wait six days. Well, guess what? His competition is Friday and adherence to hidebound rules like that will bar him from the Olympics.
"As Sam told the world, he’s not sick. He’s not displaying symptoms. He’s already had COVID-19 and should be immune. And again he tested according to USA Track and Field team tests immediately after getting this false positive.
"Obviously, the fair thing for the Olympic Committee to do would be to follow up immediately on another test to verify whether all these negatives were correct and, undoubtedly, they were."
According to NBC News, International Olympics Committee spokesman Mark Adams said every Olympic athlete is treated the same, including being immediately retested if their saliva test comes up positive for COVID-19.
"I can’t talk about the individual case, but that’s what happens in all cases," Adams said.
"He and everyone else will be subject to the same strict protocols because it’s important to give everyone confidence. And for obvious reasons, we can’t make exceptions for individuals. Everyone has to follow the rules, I’m afraid."
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