USA Track & Field joins swimming in push for Games 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 Track & Field is joining USA Swimming in calling for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee to push for a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.

In a letter tweeted by the USATF on Saturday, CEO Max Siegel wrote that it would be challenging for athletes to "properly train in a safe and adequate environment" amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

"We acknowledge that there are no perfect answers, and that this is a very complex and difficult decision," Siegel wrote, "but this position at least provides our athletes with the comfort of knowing that they will have adequate time to properly prepare themselves physically, mentally and emotionally to be able to participate in a safe and successful Olympic Games."

USA Track did not provide a timeline for a postponement, unlike USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey, who wrote to the USOPC on Friday asking it to pursue a one-year Games postponement.

That means the sports that accounted for 65 of America's 121 medals and 175 of its 554 athletes at the last Summer Games are on record in urging, in Siegel's words, "the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes."

The leader of the international track federation, Seb Coe, sent a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach on Sunday saying holding the Olympics in July "is neither feasible nor desirable" with the coronavirus impacting huge swaths of the globe.

Coe sent the letter after meeting with leaders from around the world in track, which is the biggest sport at the Olympics. It came hours after the IOC announced it could take up to four weeks to make a decision on whether to postpone the games, which are scheduled to start July 24.

Coe cited issues of fairness, the increased likelihood of injuries if athletes have to rush through training and the uncertainty caused by public health issues that are forcing many countries to order all people to stay indoors. He reiterated what he's said before -- that nobody wants to see the Olympics postponed, but it can't be held at all costs, specifically the cost of athlete safety.

The leader of the third sport that makes up the backbone of the Olympics -- gymnastics -- has sent a survey to athletes, asking for their thoughts on what the USA Gymnastics stance should be.

USA Track & Field already had its answer, thanks in part to online conversations led by its athlete representatives.

"If you go there and spread the virus and you go back home and kill one child, one grandmother, father or even an athlete, is it worth it? The answer to us was no," said Wallace Spearmon, the vice president of the USATF athletes council.

Responding to the USA Swimming letter, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and USOPC chair Susanne Lyons said they are following the International Olympic Committee's position that it is too soon to make a final call on the Games, whose opening ceremonies are scheduled for July 24.

On Thursday, 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.

Also Saturday, Brazil's Olympic Committee said in a statement that the Games should be pushed back to 2021. The committee said the decision was a necessity due to the seriousness of the pandemic and "the consequent difficulty for athletes to keep their best competitive level." Norway has also gone public with a request to postpone.

Also focused on leadership was Steve Mesler, a USOPC board member and Olympic champion bobsledder. In a blog post Friday, Mesler leveled much more criticism toward the IOC than Hirshland or Lyons had.

"The [IOC] ... has not shown the leadership we Olympians desire out of those who are in charge," Mesler wrote, careful to emphasize that these were his thoughts "as an Olympian and not those of the USOPC, its Board of Directors, or its leaders."

Information from ESPN's Wayne Drehs and The Associated Press was used in this report.