TOKYO (AFP) – Local authorities are searching for a Ugandan athlete reported missing in western Japan on Friday, a case that raises questions about Olympic organizers’ screening of runners amid coronavirus fears.
City authorities said Julius Siketoliko, a 20-year-old weightlifter, was training with a team of nine Ugandans in Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture.
Companions from the delegation noted that Cikitoliko was not in the vicinity on Friday noon, when his saliva sample for COVID-19 tests had not been delivered and they found his hotel room empty, according to authorities.
There was no practice on Friday morning and he was last seen in his room in the early hours of that day.
After being unable to find him inside the hotel, the staff reported to the police for a more thorough search.
Media reports indicated that Cikitoliko, who did not meet the Olympic standards in the latest international classification, is scheduled to return to his country next week. Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported that the weightlifter left a note stating that he wanted to stay and work in Japan.
Izumisano Mayor Hiroyasu Chiomatsu said authorities had received reports that Sekitoliko had been seen near a nearby train station.
The postponed Olympics kick off on July 23 despite growing concerns about an increase in infections in Tokyo. The host city reported 1,271 cases on Friday after 1,308 – the highest number in six months – were infected the previous day.
The Ugandan team had already experimented with health and traceability controls in Japan.
Upon arrival at Narita International Airport on June 19, one of the team members tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine at the terminal. The other eight were allowed to travel more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) in a chartered bus to Izumisano, for a training camp.
Days later, another member of the team tested positive for the virus, prompting seven city employees and drivers who had been in close contact with the team to self-isolate. Health authorities reported that they detected a delta variant in both Ugandan athletes.
The two patients completed quarantine and the team has continued training since July 7.
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