Great Britain is the ONLY major sporting nation not to fast track Tokyo 2020 stars for Covid jabs

Great Britain is now the only major sporting nation in the world where the government has not officially endorsed a ‘fast track’ Covid vaccine policy for athletes planning to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

The British Olympic Association hopes a decision will be taken in Whitehall imminently to green-light such a scheme so that all members of Team GB – to be comprised of around 375 athletes – have had enough time to have both doses of the jab.

The Games are due to begin on 23 July, which is now less than 10 weeks ago, and time is running out for two doses, which should be given 12 weeks apart although that gap can safely be much smaller.

Team GB’s Tokyo 2020 athletes have so far not been allowed to fast tracked for their Covid jabs

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If the government don’t make a decision soon, the BOA are likely instead to take up the offer of Pfizer vaccines that have been made available in a deal struck earlier this month by the pharmaceutical giant and the International Olympic Committee.

But time is of the essence, with the BOA keen to arrange the logistics. The urgency is in equal parts about protecting competitors but also, significantly, about demonstrating Team GB want to be ‘good citizens’ and minimise of the risk of any British athlete taking the virus to Japan or spreading it.

Sir Hugh Robertson, chairman of the BOA, said: ‘The Government’s vaccine rollout has been excellent and, coupled with the IOC’s donation of the Pfizer vaccine for athletes, means we are hopeful of getting all athletes vaccinated before the they travel to Tokyo.

Brazil’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes  all received their jabs this week ahead of the Games

‘It is important for this to happen soon, to assure our hosts in Tokyo that we are doing all we can to keep their population safe.’

All the ‘biggest’ sporting nations around the world, from the USA – who topped the medal table at Rio 2016 – to China, Russia, Germany, Australia and elsewhere – have already confirmed priority vaccinations for their Olympians.

As of Friday, 36,115,955 people in the UK had had at least one Covid vaccine jab, and 19,319,010 had had two, for a total of 55,434,965 vaccine doses given so far. Against this backdrop, any public outcry at Olympians getting 750 doses between them should be minimal. In fact, given Pfizer’s offer to the IOC, it should be close to zero. What is needed now is clarity so the BOA and the athletes can plan the way forward.

Team GB hope Boris Johnson’s Government will green-light scheme to get athletes jabbed

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Roger Federer is gearing up for one more big shot at Wimbledon after latest comeback

The most that Roger Federer’s fans have seen of him lately is in his current commercial with Robert de Niro promoting Switzerland as a tourist destination.

In a slick production, A-lister interacts with A-lister as, hamming it up convincingly, the mountain nation’s most famous citizen extols the virtues of his homeland.

This week Federer returns to action, making what will surely be the last comeback of his career as his 40th birthday looms in August.

Roger Federer has played just two events since the 2019 ATP Finals in London due to knee ops

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For this much-anticipated appearance he has chosen the Geneva Open at Switzerland’s stately Eaux-Vives Club de Geneve, an idyllic complex of clay courts nestled by the shore of the city’s famous lake.

It says much about Federer’s status that its tournament director, Thierry Grin, was in a state of near ecstasy when his relatively niche ATP Tour event was chosen as the player’s launch pad to the French Open at the end of this month.

‘The stars have aligned this year, it is a gift from heaven. It is a magnificent signal,’ he said. ‘With the calendar situation and his rescheduling, our tournament fell better and better in his desire to ramp up towards his big goals.’

He reported receiving ‘hundreds’ of calls to his phone every day asking for tickets after the news broke. Only 100 spectators per day will be permitted.

Federer has chosen the Geneva Open as his launch pad for the French Open this month

Federer’s aim, by far his most realistic one, is to build towards a last serious tilt at Wimbledon this summer.

You can tell that the busiest part of the tennis season is approaching because the biggest names are resurfacing after the spotty attendance of recent months.

Serena Williams was at the Italian Open this month, while Andy Murray popped up in the Rome doubles.

Even Nick Kyrgios has announced he will be returning, after refusing to leave home for fear of Covid, playing in Stuttgart’s grass-court championships early in June.

Yet no one will attract the level of international attention of the game’s biggest drawcard, who has been more absent than anyone.

Due to two minor knee surgeries, rather than the pandemic, he has played just two events since the 2019 ATP Finals in London. He made an abortive return at the Qatar Open in early March (narrowly beating Dan Evans) before deciding he needed two more months of physical work and practice.

Despite that, in the most stark example of how nonsensical the temporary semi-frozen rankings have become, he is still listed as world No 8.

This being Federer, his choice of Geneva has inevitably sparked discussion about whether this is the beginning of a farewell tour, in which he would like to give a nod to his own country.

One theory is that he might wish to call it a day in Basel, the October tournament in his hometown where he once served as a ballboy, and where his mother used to work as a volunteer.

There’s rumours Federer may call it a day in Basel, the October tournament in his hometown

This is not entirely discounted by Rene Stauffer, the veteran Swiss journalist who, having known him and his family for more than 25 years and charted his whole career, can be termed as among the world’s leading authorities on Federer. His second book on the player, titled ‘Roger Federer’ (Polaris), has just been published. It details how his parents met while working for a pharmaceutical company in a Johannesburg suburb before moving back to Europe, and how their son morphed from tempestuous teenager to international icon.

Stauffer believes it more likely that Federer could continue well beyond his 40th birthday: ‘I don’t think he has worked so hard for the last 18 months to get fit again just to play a few more tournaments and then stop,’ he says.

‘I could see him playing well into next year. Beneath everything he still loves just playing tennis and being on the tour, and he is happy to do all the work required.

‘He will only be coming back because he is ready. You can’t underestimate how meticulous he is in everything he does.

‘In 2004 he got heatstroke while playing in California. He decided this was never going to happen again, which is why he set up a base in Dubai (where he has a home). He wanted to train there even in their summer, when it is boiling hot, to make sure that he could handle it.’

He also points out that a key decision-maker will be his wife Mirka, who has been hugely influential throughout his career.

‘Mirka was a player and she was always incredibly hard-working and ambitious before her career was ended by a foot injury. She has always been behind him and still is. She told me once that when Roger wins, it feels like she is winning, too.’

Federer’s most realistic aim is to build towards a last serious tilt at Wimbledon this summer

After a bye this week, Federer, who revealed that he has been fully vaccinated, will face either Pablo Andujar or Australian Jordan Thompson. On clay, he will hold few terrors for opponents, but on grass nobody will wish to be near him in the draw.

These are strange times for tennis and not just because its cross-border nature has meant the pandemic interfering more than with most sports. A lot of its biggest names are in their 30s and successors have yet to fully establish themselves.

A certain amount of nervousness pervades over what happens when the likes of Federer fade away.

It could be that only then will the sport be forced to confront issues like its incoherent governance and natural reluctance to innovate in a fast-changing sports marketplace.

For now, starting this week on the shores of Lake Geneva, a remote audience should enjoy Federer while it can.

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Former British Cycling doctors at odds over drug exemption for Sarah Storey

The controversy over a ‘therapeutic use exemption’ certificate issued to Britain’s most-successful female Paralympian, Sarah Storey, at the London 2012 Games, has taken a fresh twist with two former British Cycling doctors at odds over their roles in the case.

Dr Richard Freeman, a British Cycling doctor at the time who did not attend those Games, has told this newspaper that his boss at the time, professor Steve Peters, then British Cycling’s head of medicine, asked him to fill in some forms relating to the application.

The TUE application for Storey was made retrospectively after a urine sample from August 30 2012 came back with high levels of a performance-enhancing substance, sal-butamol, commonly used to treat asthma. 

The British Paralympic Association insist Sarah Storey’s TUE was above board 

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Storey, now 43, won four London 2012 golds, and the retrospective TUE was applied for on September 7 2012.

‘I wasn’t even at the Para-lympics but Steve Peters instructed me to get involved in this TUE,’ says Freeman.

Peters, at that time, was on the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) panel of TUE experts who would decide on whether a TUE should be issued. UKAD have confirmed this, adding that on this occasion, UKAD had no specific role in this Games certificate. The British Paralympic Association insist Storey’s TUE was above board.

Peters told the MoS: ‘I didn’t oversee the application. I don’t know who actually applied for it. I don’t know which doctors she [Storey] saw. I don’t know who is on the panel. I also wasn’t present when this happened. No doctor instructs any other doctor to do anything … for clarification I was an attending doctor [at the London Paralympics] in psychiatry and not physical medicine.’

The application for TUE certificate was made retrospectively after an adverse finding

The MoS asked Peters to clarify what he meant by no doctor instructing another doctor to do anything. As this newspaper revealed in March, we have seen documentary evidence of Peters telling Freeman in 2011 to send an email to British Cycling riders and staff about private urine tests after one rider had returned an irregular urine test containing traces of the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone in late 2010.

A spokesman for Peters said: ‘As previously explained, Prof Peters has never instructed Dr Freeman. Also, as explained previously, no doctor instructs another doctor to do anything. He [Freeman] may have been consulted at the time [by Peters] to explain the TUE pro-cess.’

It is not known why Peters would be unfamiliar with the TUE pro-cess when he sat on an expert UKAD TUE panel at the time.

The Mail on Sunday can also reveal today that both Freeman and Peters are among ex-British Cycling staff members to have been contacted since last month about an internal British Cycling probe into how British Cycling were effectively allowed by UKAD to investigate themselves following the nandrolone positive mentioned above.

The news comes as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) enter a ninth week of their own investigation into UKAD, for the latter’s alleged dereliction of responsibility in letting British Cycling investigate themselves in 2011.

Dr Richard Freeman, who did not attend the 2012 Games, says he was asked to get involved

As this newspaper revealed in March, the private British Cycling investigation ruled out supplement contamination as a reason for the anomalous finding, and also ruled out rare high levels of nandrolone production in the cyclists concerned.

Peters has not answered a question sent by the MoS over whether he has been helping British Cycling with their inquiries. Freeman feels unable to cooperate with British Cycling because the latter still have possession of one of his laptops on which most of his records are stored, and are refusing to return it to him.

It is understood Freeman has had some contact with WADA’s intelligence and investigations department, and wants to share everything he knows about what happened at British Cycling and at Team Sky when he worked there, from 2009 to 2017.

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