The USOPC is investigating vaccinating athletes where appropriate ©Getty Images

United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chief medical officer Jonathan Finnoff has said the organisation is investigating vaccinating athletes against COVID-19 when it is appropriate, but acknowledged some may turn down the vaccine ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Vaccinations have offered optimism the Games could take place this year, following the postponement from 2020.

A debate has emerged over the vaccination of athletes, amid suggestions they could be prioritised to ensure the Games can take place.

The International Olympic Committee said this week it will send a letter to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) asking them to actively engage with their respective Governments to get a "full picture" on the vaccination situation in their countries.

The NOCs are expected to report back to the IOC in early February.

Bach told IOC members and NOCs on the calls that the organisation and the World Health Organization (WHO) would help NOCs struggling to obtain the vaccines in the lead-up to the Games.

The IOC has repeatedly said it will not jump the queue ahead of those who need a vaccination most and has insisted it will not be mandatory for athletes to compete at the Games.

Encouragement has come from the IOC for athletes to be vaccinated should they be offered a vaccine.

Finnoff, who became the USOPC’s chief medical officer last year, told Reuters that the organisation was investigating the possibility of vaccinating athletes when they become available to the general public.

The IOC has said vaccinations will not be mandatory for athletes ©Getty Images
The IOC has said vaccinations will not be mandatory for athletes ©Getty Images

"We are definitely investigating every potential opportunity for vaccinating our athletes when it is appropriately available to the general population," Finnoff said.

Finnoff also acknowledged that some athletes may decline vaccinations, adding that the organisation was looking to educate people.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last month sought to reassure athletes that there is "no reason to believe" COVID-19 vaccines would break anti-doping rules.

"I have not had any athlete raise a concern specifically with me about whether the vaccines can cause a positive test," Finnoff told Reuters.

"But I have had athletes raise concerns about are there any long-term ramifications associated with it, if I have the vaccine is there the potential that it will impede my performance?

"Part of what we what we are dealing with at the USOPC is really trying to educate people.

"There will likely be a mix of people who want the vaccine and a small percentage who do not."

While the IOC and Tokyo 2020 have stressed vaccines will not be a "silver bullet" for the Games, their development has nonetheless boosted hopes of the Games going ahead.

It forms part of a "toolbox" of countermeasures the IOC and organisers are planning to implement if the Olympics and Paralympics take place as planned.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympics following from August 24 to September 5.