Picture by ISSF

What happens if athletes test COVID-positive at Tokyo Olympics

No athlete will be classified ‘disqualified’ and will instead be listed as ‘did not start’. The rules differ for each sport.
By Rahul Venkat

After a year-long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics are finally set to begin on July 23.

There will be no spectators at the Summer Games as the Japanese government wants a safe and bubble-like environment for all the athletes.

However, there will always be a possibility that the virus may strike at the Games Village or a venue to render an athlete or athletes unable to compete.

To deal with those unforeseen incidents, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international sport federations have come up with the Tokyo 2020 Sport-Specific Regulations (SSR).

The SSR lays down the ground rules on how to deal with the impact of a COVID-positive case across different sports. Its main objective is to ensure that no athlete is classified as ‘disqualified’.

Indian athletes will be competing across 18 different sports at Tokyo 2020. Here’s how the COVID rules will impact athletes who get infected during the Games:


If an archer is unable to compete for being COVID-positive, they will be marked DNS (Did Not Start) and the opponent will receive a bye into the next round. In case any archer tests positive before the final, they will be replaced by the archer who was eliminated in the previous round.

In the men’s and women’s team events, if any team is unable to start, then it will be deemed DNS and the opponent team will receive a bye.

In a mixed team event, if an archer contracts COVID, he or she can be replaced by another to complete the team.

Indian archer Deepika Kumari will shoot in the women’s individual event. Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav will compete in the men’s individual event and the men’s team event.

Deepika Kumari entered Tokyo 2020 as world No. 1.


If any participant in track-and-field events tests positive for COVID-19, they will be marked ‘DNS’ and the next-best placed athlete from the previous round will come in as the replacement.

The round at which the athlete exits due to COVID-19 will be considered as the final result for that athlete.

In case of the 10,000m, marathon and race walks - which are single races - COVID-stricken athletes will be deemed ‘DNS’ and so, there will be one less athlete in the field.

India have 18 athletes competing across the track-and-field events at Tokyo 2020.


A shuttler who tests positive for COVID-19 will be marked as ‘DNS’. If it happens after a match, the player will be ‘withdrawn’, and the opponent will get a bye into the next round.

The round at which a player exits due to COVID-19 will be considered as the final result for that shuttler.

For India, Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu will play in the women’s singles; B Sai Praneeth will make his debut in the men’s singles and the pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy will feature in men’s doubles.


A boxer will be marked ‘DNS’ and considered to have given a ‘walkover’ if COVID strikes post the start of the competition.

If it happens before the final, the COVID-positive boxer will be given the silver medal and the opponent an automatic gold.

A record nine Indian boxers - including record six-time world champion MC Mary Kom - will compete at Tokyo 2020.

MC Mary Kom will take part in her second Olympic Games.


In the Eventing section, if a rider/horse combination tests COVID-positive, they will be deemed ‘DNS’.

India will be represented by Fouaad Mirza in the Eventing category.


If a fencer tests COVID-positive, he or she will be marked ‘DNS’ and the opponent handed a win.

Bhavani Devi will be India’s only representative in the individual sabre fencing event.


A COVID-positive golfer will be marked as ‘DNS’ and in case it happens after the competition has begun, the golfer will be deemed to have ‘withdrawn’. The result of the golfer up to point of withdrawal will be considered final.

For India, Anirban Lahiri and Udayan Mane will play in the men’s event while Aditi Ashok will be the sole golfer in the women’s field.


In artistic gymnastics, if a gymnast is unable to compete in the individual event, the first designated reserve athlete will be the replacement.

Pranati Nayak is the only Indian gymnast at Tokyo 2020.


If any team is unable to play due to COVID-19-induced circumstances, it will be marked ‘DNS’.

In case this occurs in the knockout stages, the opposing team will advance to the next round and the final position of the affected team will be determined according to the round in which it exits.

If a team in the final is unable to take part, the team they beat in the semis will play the final instead and the other losing semi-finalist will win the bronze medal.

Both the Indian men’s and women’s teams will be in fray in Tokyo.

The Indian men's hockey team will be a medal favourite at Tokyo 2020.
Picture by Hockey India


A COVID-affected judoka will be deemed ‘DNS’ and the opponent will receive a bye.

Sushila Devi Likmabam in the women’s 48kg will be the only Indian judoka at the Tokyo Olympics.


A crew unable to compete due to COVID-19 will be marked ‘DNS’. In case this occurs in the knockouts, the next-best placed team from the qualifiers will fill that position in the respective rounds. There may, however, be variations from case to case decided by the World Rowing Executive Committee.

Arjun Jat and Arvind Singh will be the Indian rowers in the lightweight double sculls event.


Sailors absent due to COVID-19 cases will be marked as ‘Did Not Come’ (DNC). There shall be no replacements.

India have three representatives in sailing - Nethra Kumanan (Laser Radial), Vishnu Saravanan (Laser Standard) and the team of Varun Thakkar/KC Ganapathy (49er).


Any shooter testing positive for COVID-19 will be deemed ‘DNS’ and there will be no replacements in the individual events.

For mixed team events, in case a member is COVID-positive, the country can choose to replace the affected shooter with another shooter if available on site.

India have a record 15 shooters in the fray in different events at the Tokyo Olympics.


If a swimmer cannot compete, he or she will be marked ‘DNS’ and if it happens in the knockout stages, a reserve swimmer can come in.

India have three swimmers - Sajan Prakash (men’s 200m butterfly), Srihari Nataraj (men’s 100m backstroke) and Maana Patel (women’s 100m backstroke) - at the Games.

Table Tennis

Any player/pair/team unable to play due to COVID-19 will be marked ‘DNS’ and if it occurs after the competition has begun, they will give ‘walkover’ with the opponent eliminated progressing to the next round.

Four Indian table players - Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (men’s individual) and Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee (women’s individual) - will take part in the Olympics.

Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal will also team up for the mixed doubles event.


If any tennis player/team cannot compete, ‘DNS’ and/or ‘walkover’ (if it occurs after competition has begun) will apply with opponents getting a bye.

The pair of Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina will represent India in women’s doubles at the Games.


A weightlifter who cannot compete due to COVID-19 will be marked ‘DNS’ and there shall be no replacements.

World No. 4 Mirabai Chanu (women’s 49kg) is the only Indian weightlifter at the Tokyo Olympics.


A wrestler positive for COVID-19 will be marked ‘DNS’, with his or her opponent getting a bye to the next round.

If a wrestler cannot compete in the final, the wrestler who lost in the semi-final will compete for the gold medal.

Seven Indian wrestlers will take part at Tokyo 2020.