USA Swimming asks USOPC to push for one-year Olympic delay

2020 Olympics plan to go on as scheduled (2:29)

Michele Steele discusses the current plan for the Olympics to go on as scheduled in July. (2:29)

USA Swimming wants the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed by a year, according to a letter written to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

In the letter, which was tweeted by USA Swimming on Friday, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey writes that his athletes have struggled to train for the upcoming Games during the coronavirus pandemic and he calls on the USOPC to advocate for the one-year postponement.

"Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all," Hinchey wrote. "Our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness should be among the highest priorities.

"... There are no perfect answers, and this will not be easy; however, it is a solution that provides a concrete path forward and allows all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021."

Hinchey said athletes' worlds have been turned "upside down" as they look for ways to continue preparing for the Games. He wrote that "pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer."

USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and USOPC chair Susanne Lyons responded to Hinchey's letter in a statement, saying they believe the guidance of the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee that it is too soon to make a final decision on the Games.

"The USOPC is in constant communication with senior leadership of the IOC and IPC -- and they have also expressed that their focus is on the health and wellbeing of athletes, and communities around the world, and that they will continue to rely on advice from the World Health Organization as they determine if it is necessary to adapt their position as the situation evolves," Hirshland and Lyons said in the statement. "They believe that it is premature to make a final call on the date of the Games and we believe that we should afford them the opportunity to gather more data and expert advice before insisting that a decision be made."

They added that they are part of conversations with the IOC ahead of next week's executive board meeting.

"Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them," they said in the statement. "The USOPC will be leaders in providing accurate advice and honest feedback, and be unfailing advocates of the athletes and their safety, and the necessity of a fair platform for the Games. You have our promise."

Hirshland also addressed the upcoming Games in a conference call Friday, saying the situation was "a work in progress as the environment continues to evolve."

Other sports organizations were adding their voices.

Nic Coward, the chairman of UK Athletics in Britain, told BBC Sport that leaving the Olympics starting date unchanged "is creating so much pressure in the system. It now has to be addressed.''

And the CEO of Swimming Canada, Ahmed El-Awadi, put out a statement saying: "We hold the opinions of our brothers and sisters at USA Swimming in high regard, and share many of the same concerns around health and safety.''

On Thursday, IOC president Thomas Bach told The New York Times that the committee was "considering different scenarios" amid the pandemic. The USOPC echoed those sentiments Friday, with Lyons saying the organization is planning for a variety of outcomes regarding the coronavirus and the Games.

Jacob Pebley, a swimmer on the 2016 Olympic team, had expressed his concerns over the upcoming Games in an Instagram post Thursday night.

"How can we, members of Team USA and role models for hundreds of thousands of young athletes, attend Olympic Trials/the Olympics in good conscience?" Pebley wrote. "To do so would fly in the face of all emerging evidence and best practices for social distancing and protecting the health of vulnerable communities."

Said Hirshland and Lyons on Friday: "The USOPC has complete and total empathy for the athlete community as they manage the terrible stress and anxiety caused by the current lack of certitude regarding the Tokyo Games."

The opening ceremonies for the Tokyo Games are scheduled for July 24.

ESPN's Wayne Drehs and The Associated Press contributed to this report.