Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) high-powered six-member committee, headed by secretary Rohit Bhardwaj, has come up with a detailed ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOPs), outlining a series of measures for reopening the SAI training centres and National Centre of Excellence (NCOEs) across nation once the curbs are lifted.
TOI has exclusively accessed the 33-page document which not only details out the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for athletes and support staff reporting back to the camps and training centres, but also underlines the government-run sports body’s fear of putting India’s Olympic hopefuls in a “disadvantageous” position vis-à-vis their “global counterparts” if the training wasn’t resumed at the earliest.
“It’s imperative to find avenues for the athletes to resume training at the earliest to make up for the lost ground during lockdown, in a bid to attain peak performance levels for Olympic Games or its qualifiers. Any further delay caused in resuming the training could put our athletes in a position of disadvantage compared to their global counterparts. Having said so, it is critical to put in place adequate measures to provide a safe training environment for the athletes,” said the SAI’s dossier.
The SOP prepared has set forth guidelines and measures, which all training centres should adhere in order to get the Indian sports up and running again. According to the SAI document, the SOP was developed based on secondary research of public domain information from credible media reports and official disclosures by various international sports bodies and advisories by the government, to provide guidance to trainees and staff at SAI and non-SAI training centres in performing the activities in a consistent and standardized manner.
The SOP has taken into account several factors and outlined protocols for resident athletes, coaches, support staff and administrative staff to follow to resume training in a protected environment. TOI lists out the measures:
Categorisation of sports and precautions for each category:
Category A: Non-contact sports: archery, shooting, cycling, fencing, athletics, weightlifting, lawn tennis, badminton and table tennis.
Precautions for training and equipment activity: Full array of training activities may be performed as individual or pair maintaining – distancing norms of 1.5 to 2 metres between athletes and staff and exiting facility as soon as training is concluded. Personal equipment such as bow, gun, sword, javelin, discuss, rackets etc. shall be used without sharing. Shared training equipment such as arrows, shuttlecocks, balls, targets, Olympic bar/ weights etc. must be disinfected after every single use and shall not be used to rub/ touch face, remove sweat, cover mouth while hyperventilating etc. In the dire need of sharing any of such personally used equipment; equipment shall be properly disinfected after every single use as per the standard procedure using disinfectant, wearing face masks, gloves and personal precautionary equipment etc. Sports specific safety equipment such as a helmet, eye protectors, face protectors etc. shall not be shared.
Category B: Minimal contact sports: football, hockey, volleyball, basketball and handball.
Precautions: Training activities may be performed in small groups (maximum 8-10) maintaining distancing norms of 1.5 to 2 metres between athletes and staff and ensuring aspects of training which require physical contact are avoided like tackling, body-blocking etc.; the pitch shall be divided into three/ four areas, with a maximum of three players in each space who will train and stick to their partnerships should a player test positive for coronavirus; chief coach and an assistant coach shall oversee proceedings from the safe distance/ video tower, with the pair the only staff allowed to pick up balls and cones, which would then be disinfected; training shall be in small groups, players staying 10 metres from each other during exercises and sessions not exceeding one hour per day. However, “drastic measures” shall be taken to avoid contact with no competitive games being played; Personal equipment such as hockey stick, gloves, face masks, mouth guard, helmet, shin guards, wrist band, head band, shoes etc. shall be used without sharing. Athletes shall exit facility as soon as training is concluded.
Category C: Full contact sports: boxing, wrestling, judo, wushu, karate and taekwondo.
Precautions: Selective training activities may be performed by athletes individually without engaging in physical combat with other athletes and utilising alternative practice equipment like punching/kicking bags, slam balls, choke dummies etc.; personal equipment such as gloves, face masks, mouth guard, helmet, wrist band, head band, training uniform, shoes etc. shall be used without sharing and consistent hand sanitization is a must before, during and after every training session. Distancing norms of 1.5 to 2 metres between athletes and staff shall be maintained. Athletes shall exit facility as soon as training is concluded.
Category D: Water Sports: canoeing, sailing, rowing etc. No swimming shall be permitted.
Precautions: Full array of training activities may be performed as individual or pair maintaining – distancing norms of 1.5 to 2 metres between athletes and staff and exiting facility as soon as training is concluded.
Principles for the resumption of sport and recreation activities
1) Resumption of sport and recreation activities should not compromise the health of individuals or the community.
2) Resumption of sport and recreation activities will be based on objective health information to ensure they are conducted safely and do not risk increased COVID-19 local transmission rates.
3) All decisions about resumption of sport and recreation activities must take place with careful reference to these national principles following close consultation with the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) and/or local public health authorities, as relevant.
4) All individuals who participate in, and contribute to, sport and recreation will be considered in resumption plans, including those at the high performance/professional level, those at the community competitive level, and those who wish to enjoy passive (non-contact) individual sports and recreation.
5) Resumption of other sporting activity should take place in a staged fashion with an initial phase of small group (10) activities including full contact training/competition in sport. Individual jurisdictions will determine progression through these phases, taking account of local epidemiology, risk mitigation strategies and public health capability.
Scope and Coverage:
This SOP applies to all SAI and non-SAI training centres wherein athletes may undertake training. Resumption of training shall be allowed in a phased manner as per government guidelines. This SOP covers all stakeholders active at the centres including all athletes, technical and non-technical support staff, SAI administrative staff, hostel and facility management staff and visitors to the centres.
After careful assessment, it was concluded that the athletes/staff striving for resumption of training must undertake preliminary precautionary measures which are: All athletes joining the training facilities afresh shall be tested for Covid-19 to prevent any chance of infection to the personnel who have been staying in an infection-free environment at the facilities. The returning athletes shall be quarantined till the test results clear them of Covid-19 contraction. Final clearance should be provided by the Doctor-In-charge at the respective SAI centre. The same will be applicable to athletes/staff at non-SAI training centres such as Prakash Padukone-Rahul Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence in Bengaluru and Pullela Gopichand badminton academy in Hyderabad to name a few.
Measures prior to resumption of training: Formation of a “Covid-19 Task Force” at each training centre. The Task Force will include the chief coaching staff from each NSF as its member and the centre-in-charge will be its ex-officio chairman with a responsibility for overall implementation of protocols outlined in the SOP, including monitoring of group movements of athletes/visitors/staff, follow-up of foreign coaches and their health & travel advise and regulating the travel of trainees and coaches. The use of Arogya Setu app shall be made mandatory for all athletes and staff at the centre. The Task Force shall ensure a 100 percent coverage of Arogya Setu among all athletes and staff at the centre. The Task Force shall work closely with the coaches and support staff to define guidelines and protocols addressing the following questions: a) What training can still be effectively performed from home? b) How can training be staggered to minimise numbers and reduce contact? c) How can the numbers at training be managed to maintain some social distancing? d) How can training times be modified so that there are less people present at one time?
The Task Force shall ensure each athlete and NSF staff provides a signed consent form declaring their consent and knowledge of all the limitations and risks associated with training under current scenario. SAI shall offer a training environment with best possible protection against infection. The precautionary measures and protocols mentioned in this SOP have been derived from study of best practices and inputs from experts but in no way could guarantee the complete elimination of risks posed by Covid-19 pandemic.
Protocols and precautions for training: It’ll be the responsibility of National Sports Federations (NSFs) to ensure complete adherence to training protocols and to secure “written undertaking” from respective athletes that any training activity undertaken shall be in full compliance to the protocols. NSF shall nominate a Hygiene Officer to ensure compliance and implementation of all protective measures for athlete and staff safety.
These include: Written confirmation of the infection-free condition of players and staff shall be provided to Task Force officers before entering the premises; all personal training equipment belonging to an athlete shall be disinfected; oropharyngeal or nasal swab test shall be conducted for new/returning athletes (especially athletes in Olympic camps); FOP (field of play) equipment shall be handed over to the athletes and support staff only by the ground staff wearing PPE kits; athletes shall change before and after the training at their respective room; use of low ventilated spaces and rooms that prevent social distancing, such as locker rooms and small dry-land rooms shall be eliminated; on-field training shall be conducted in small groups ensuring minimum distancing of 1.5 to 2 metres (“2 Gaz ki doori” ) by trainees and staff; no physical contact by athletes as part of training routine, for example handshakes, high-fives, tackling and sparring; all physiotherapy/massage shall be avoided unless absolutely necessary; spitting and clearing of nasal/respiratory secretions on the pitch or at any place within the facility other than toilets shall be prohibited; use of swimming pool shall be avoided; athletes must remain inside the training facilities till the Covid-19 situation stabilises; windows shall be kept open and operation of A/C avoided and no spectators shall be allowed within training centre at any time.
Precautions for gymnasium/physiotherapy room:
1) Use of gym shall be avoided/ limited to inescapable requirement; and as far as possible exercise shall be allowed using personal equipment, which shall not be shared by any other trainee.
2) If exercising in gym is deemed necessary, distancing norms of 1.5 to 2 metres shall be adhered to at all times and it shall be ensured that no utility like towel, water bottle etc. is shared.
3) The use of gym shall be allowed in specific time slots, allowing sufficient time for disinfection between two slots, and the maximum number of people allowed to use the gym at a time shall be determined by the COVID Task Force of respective centre.
4) Use of the fitness equipment shall be permitted only while wearing gloves and face mask and under consequent use of disinfectants afterwards. Use of the fitness room shall be permitted only in small groups of maximum 5 people under observance distancing norms.
5) Spatial separation and sufficient distance between gym equipment shall be ensured at all times.
6) Each gym equipment shall be disinfected after every single use. Additional staff shall be appointed for proper disinfection of the gym equipment prior to continuous usage.
7) Trainees shall be encouraged to undertake additional freehand exercises and practice yoga extensively during this period.
8) All physiotherapy/massage shall be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
9) Recovery areas including sauna, hydrotherapy etc. shall be made inaccessible during this period
10) Services of a masseur/ masseuse may be utilised preferably only once high intensity training starts or wherever recovery is an issue. Additionally, services utilising recovery equipment/ massage table/ game ready shall be resumed only after proper disinfection only.
11) As an interim measure, a massage chair/ Lympha Press system shall be used for recovery purposes by adopting due disinfection protocol.
Precautions at Medical Centre
1) All Medical Room furniture in each room shall be sterilized prior to 8.30 am and then once again at 11 am.
2) Patients entry door into the building complex shall have a wall installed hand sanitizer which must be used by every patient before entry.
3) Medical facilities at the centre must be upgraded (including modern COVID diagnosis devices) to ensure all provisions are made for protection from and treatment of COVID-19 infection. Sufficient staff shall also be provisioned to handle such treatment.
4) Athletes shall resort to tele-consultation as much as possible and not visit the medical centre unless it is a case of emergency.
5) Any trainee/staff treated in the medical centre shall be treated in accordance to local/national protocols for treatment of infectious diseases.
6) Entry shall be regulated, and marks shall be made outside the medical centre for maintaining social distancing by designating standing/waiting points.
Sanitization at centre
1) Hand sanitizers shall be made available at the entrance and a notice shall be displayed with guidelines on proper sanitization process.
2) Sanitizers shall be placed at entry points of rooms of officials, FOP, gymnasium, medical centre, dining hall/mess and other strategic points throughout the centre.
3) Every person within the centre shall sanitize their hands regularly as per guidelines displayed on illustrative notices throughout the centre.
4) Wherever possible, windows shall be kept open and operation of A/C avoided.
5) Handshakes and other forms of greetings which need physical contact shall be avoided.
6) Meetings with trainee groups shall be avoided as far as possible.
7) For all discussions, which demand physical presence, trainees and staff shall strictly adhere to the social distancing norm of minimum 1.5 to 2 metres (“2 Gaz ki doori”) between each individual.
8) All packed supplies delivered at centre shall be placed in an open area for a period of 24hrs (cardboard packing) or 72 hours (plastic packing) before usage. Unwrapped items like fruits or vegetables shall be washed under running water immediately after being delivered at centre. Fruits and vegetables may be soaked in diluted vinegar, salt or lemon water for few hours and left to dry prior to consumption.
Precautions for residential trainees:
1) Training centres shall ensure that all athletes are accommodated in single rooms
2) The linen/bed sheets shall be changed at frequent intervals.
3) The use of toilet shall be allowed at a maximum 50% capacity to ensure social distancing in the toilet area as well.
4) Workout shoes should be kept separately, washed properly and dried under sunlight to keep it germ free. There shall be separate pair of shoes or Slippers for use outside the room and any footwear used for walking outside the room should be kept outside the room. Shoes or slippers must get cleaned properly and dried under sunlight.
5) Windows of rooms should be kept open as much as possible to ensure ventilation.
6) Quarantine facilities for existing and new/returning athletes and staff shall be provisioned in a separate building to the hostel building. These quarantine rooms shall be well ventilated, with an attached washroom. Quarantine rooms shall be serviced by a separate pool of staff. The quarantine facilities shall adhere to all other recommendations mentioned in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) guidelines.
1) Prior to resuming training activities at the centres, each athlete shall be educated on COVID precautionary measures, which are to be implemented at the facility and during training. Athletes shall be given refresher training on better hygiene and health safety practices.
2) Non-residential athletes and residential athletes returning to the centre shall be educated on the existing precautionary measures regarding usage of common facilities within the centre.
3) Provision shall be made for education material for athletes and other personnel to promote required behaviours (e.g. regular and thorough hand-washing, covering mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve during coughing/sneezing). Some topics on which resources (preferably published by WHO) shall be made available are – good hygiene for coronavirus (COVID-19), covering of coughs and sneezes, self-isolation (self-quarantine) for coronavirus (COVID-19) and advice for people at risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).
4) Posters illustrating hygiene best practices and anti-COVID precautionary measures shall be displayed at clearly visible spots throughout the centre.
5) High performance/professional athletes and other personnel shall be educated on hygiene practices and required behaviours relevant to their sport and environment. Some mandatory precautionary practices include: no sharing of drink bottles and towels, no sharing of mats, or equipment without an appropriate cleaning protocol, in between training sessions, no physical contact in the form of handshakes, hugs, high-fives etc. and use of Arogya Setu app shall be made mandatory and the athletes shall be trained on effective usage of the app.