The USOPC has established a mental health taskforce ©Getty Images

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has created a mental health taskforce to help athletes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 13-member group will also support coaches, officials and administrators and will develop "best practices, resources and action plans to support the mental health needs of athletes before, during and after competition", according to the USOPC.

In a statement, the USOPC said the panel would "advise USOPC staff who frequently engage with athletes, on and off the field of play".

The taskforce has been in place since February, after the spread of COVID-19 began to disrupt sport and before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were delayed until 2021.

The postponement of the Games has led to fears over the mental health of athletes, many of whom have been unable to train because of the virus.

Four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles, arguably the biggest name who had been due to compete at Tokyo 2020, told NBC’s Today show last week that the mental challenge for athletes following the postponement was greater than any physical issues.

Simone Biles has admitted the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics provides a mental challenge for athletes ©Getty Images
Simone Biles has admitted the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics provides a mental challenge for athletes ©Getty Images

"Physically I have no doubts that my coaches will get me back in shape, but mentally going another year, I think that is what’s going to take the toll on me and all of us and most of the athletes," Biles, a 19-time world champion, said.

"We have to stay in shape mentally just as much as physically. 

"That will play a big factor moving forward, listening to your body and your mind."

The taskforce, comprised of Olympians, Paralympians, coaches, medical and mental health professionals, will be responsible for advising and collaborating with an internal USOPC mental health working group.

"We are acutely aware of the mental health concerns facing our athletes - heightened by the current environment in the Olympic and Paralympic community - and are fully dedicated to being an active leader in providing support and resources to help athletes navigate the pressures, and at times, uncertainty, of their careers," USOPC chief medical officer Jonathan Finnoff said.

"The goal of the taskforce is to ensure athletes, and the staff who are entrusted with their care, are well-informed and prepared to recognise and respond to individuals in need, both before and once mental health concerns arise."

The COVID-19 virus has infected more than a million people and killed at least 60,000 worldwide.

The US has reported more than 277,000 cases of the virus, the most of any country in the world.