The Postponement of Tokyo Olympics 2020: An Ethical Dilemma Concerning the Expiration of Banned Period of Doping-Banned Athletes


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Organizing Committee had to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s global outbreak. While reorganizing for the Olympics in 2021, the decisionmakers must consider several critical operational, and ethical issues. One issue relating to athletes’ participation in the changed set of participants has significant functional, ethical, behavioural, and psychological impacts. Further, it impacts implementing the fundamental principles of Olympism, or the Olympic Movement, like solidarity and non-discrimination.

The decision is related to whether IOC should allow participants to compete, in spite of facing a ban in 2020 due to previous use of prohibited performance-enhancing drugs but who would complete the prohibition before the rescheduled Olympics trials. Preventing these athletes from participation may bring legal complexity. On the other hand, allowing these athletes to participate may create dissatisfaction and anger in the other so-called “clean” athletes who were not facing any ban in 2020. This “clean” group of athletes would consider the other groups opportunity as a “lucky break.” The decision favoring the currently banned athletes’ participation in the Olympics trials would reduce the possibility of the “clean” athletes joining the main event to win medals. They would be dissatisfied or even angry, which may substantially affect the team-level relationship and country-level performance. The organizing committee has to make a decision that may affect many athletes’ careers, as well as the overall Olympic Movement.

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