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Aussies ignore Olympic doctor's handshake fears

Australian athletes say they will continue to shake hands at the London Olympics despite British warnings it will spread disease...

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

 

Australian athletes say they will continue to shake hands at the London Olympics despite British warnings it will spread disease.

Australian Olympics Committee spokesperson Mike Tancred said it would be an "embarrassment" to succumb to the hygiene fears aired by the British Olympic Association's (BOA) chief medical officer overnight.

"Members of the Australian Olympic Team always extend the hand of friendship on and off the field of play," Mr Tancred said. "And that will be the case in London.

"To not shake hands would be an embarrassment for us as a team."

The BOA's Dr Ian McCurdie had argued that shaking hands should be off-limits, given all athletes would be living and eating close together at the Games Village and bugs could spread like wildfire.

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But Mr Tancred said there were special machines around the Village including at the dining hall - where athletes could wash their hands.

The British Government is also perplexed by the warning and has rejected the claim, saying there is no reason for people not to shake hands.

Athletes are also unconvinced, with Olympic champion rower Zac Purchase tweeting that the advice seemed a "bit pointless unless u r going to run around with disinfectant 4 every surface you come into contact with".

The BOA has drawn up a list of health advice for its 550-strong team of athletes and 450 support staff for the Games, which start in the British capital on July 27, with illness identified as the greatest threat to performance along with injury.

"Within reason if you do have to shake hands with people, so long as you understand that regular hand washing and/or also using hand foam can help reduce the risk - that would be a good point," Dr McCurdie said.

"At an Olympic Games or any major event the performance impact of becoming ill or even feeling a little bit ill can be significant."

He said that bugs could easily be picked up from anything from cutlery to door handles.

"Essentially we are talking about minimising risk of illness and optimising resistance. Minimising exposure and getting bugs into the system and being more robust to manage those should that happen.

"Hand hygiene is it. It is all about hand hygiene."

At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, where the athletes' village was hit by concerns about cleanliness, a number of swimmers picked up bugs that either affected their performance or forced them to pull out of events altogether.

Other health warnings for British athletes at the London Olympics include sleep deprivation, long working hours and the disruption of having to live in a new environment.

Athletes could also expect to feel the pressures of performing in front of a home crowd, the BOA said.

 

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