Team USA treats COVID ahead of the Olympics

Some members of the U.S. Olympic bobsleigh team pose for a photo before departing with Delta Airlines for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Los Angeles International Airport on January 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOPC)

The United States bobsleigh and skeleton team was dealing with COVID-19 issues a week before the Olympics, with multiple positive tests impacting travel plans in recent days, sources told Yahoo Sports.

A bobsledder, Josh Williamson, revealed on Wednesday that he had tested positive. He was not the only team member affected, according to three sources familiar with the situation. A Bobsled and Skeleton official in the US confirmed Friday evening that the team’s delegation had “passed multiple positive COVID-19 tests”, but did not provide further details.

In addition, team doctor Eugene Byrne said in a since-deleted Instagram post that he “arrived in Europe 5 days ago and tested positive for covid.” He said he was on his way home “to rest and recuperate.”

After two sources confirmed Byrne tested positive and after a USABS official was notified of the Instagram post, it was removed.

The USABS source said that, “at this point”, the federation “still expects”[s] everyone to Beijing.” Some athletes and staff have already arrived, on a Team USA charter flight that departed California on Thursday. Others are now hoping to depart on separate flights in the coming days.

The Games officially start next Friday, February 4, but the bobsleigh competition won’t start until February 13. The first training day is February 10.

Several Olympic flights will take place between the US and Beijing between now and then. Williamson, a 25-year-old who was a first-time Olympian, said he hoped to catch one of them. He said he tested positive for the first time last Sunday, meaning he will likely heal his infection well before the two-man and four-man bobsleigh races, which start on February 14 and 19 respectively.

Olympic rules, however, create additional hurdles. Williamson – like every other member of the delegation who tested positive this month – will require four consecutive days of negative tests, plus a fifth day of buffer, before he can leave, according to updated protocols finalized late last week.

Each of the four tests must be a PCR test, which can remain positive for weeks after a person clears the contagious phase of their infection.

Other teams also have COVID issues. A Russian figure skater and bobsleigher, two members of the Norwegian cross-country team and German skeleton sliders have tested positive.

All Olympic participants will also be tested upon arrival at Beijing airport and daily thereafter during their stay, regardless of previous infections.

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