Athletics Canada has withdrawn five athletes planned to represent the country this weekend at the 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland.
The sports organization said it made the decision after an internal discussion with the “health and safety of [its] athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers in mind,” in a media release Tuesday.
“We simply cannot justify putting our athletes, coaches and staff in harm’s way,” Athletics Canada said.
The organization pointed toward the sharp increase of COVID-19 cases in Poland as a reason for the withdrawal. The announcement came on the same day Poland reported 5,000 new cases of the virus.
While Athletics Canada says it’s confident that World Athletics and the local organizing committee were doing “everything possible to protect participants,” it “saw too many risks that nobody could be expected to control.”
Representing Canada were athletes Rachel Cliff, Justin Kent, Ben Preisner, Philippe Parrot-Migas and Thomas Toth.
The championships had been scheduled earlier in the year on March 29, but was rescheduled to Oct. 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event will be broadcast on CBC Television and streamed online at CBCSports.ca on Road to the Olympic Games on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.
Simon Nathan, Athletics Canada’s high performance director, said he knows the decision was disappointing news, but was made with the team’s health and safety at heart.
The various risks, according to Dr. Paddy McCluskey, Athletics Canada’s chief medical officer, included flying and transfers within airports; whether individuals would comply to the safety protocols; and having the athletes be in publicly-accessed common areas like hotel lobbies and common dining areas.
“We felt it was prudent not to expose our team to those risks,” he said.