The AOC says the South Australian Government's decision to ignore expert medical advice and the decision of National Cabinet by imposing a 28 day period for returning Australian Olympians poses a significant mental health risk for those athletes.
The fully vaccinated Australian Olympic Team has returned home and is currently undergoing the mandatory quarantine arrangements at hotels and facilities around Australia, as any other Australian is required to do. No special treatment has been sought.
However, the South Australian Government has chosen to impose a further mandatory quarantine period when South Australian athletes return from hotel quarantine in Sydney, effectively inflicting a 28 quarantine period for athletes at a time of mental and emotional vulnerability.
South Australia is the only state to do this. There are 56 team members returning to South Australia with 16 currently quarantined in Sydney.
AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll says the decision flies in the face of the expert medical advice of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Chief Medical Officer Dr David Hughes that the mental health of athletes can be severely challenged after returning from a highly constrained Tokyo Games environment into the further isolation of extended lockdown.
"While other countries are celebrating the return of their athletes, we are subjecting ours to the most cruel and uncaring treatment. They are being punished for proudly representing their country with distinction at the Olympic Games," said Mr Carroll.
"We are all promoting the obvious benefits of vaccination, but this important layer of protection is not working in favour of these athletes, given this decision. By any measure, this group of returning Olympians is extremely low risk.
"Not only are our Olympians fully vaccinated, but they have also been living in a highly controlled bubble in Tokyo, taking the upmost precautions – tested daily over many weeks.
Mr Carroll says the AOC has expressly followed the South Australian Health Department's Exemption process, submitting medical evidence based on highly qualified advice.
"We have received no explanation as to why our application on behalf of these athletes has been rejected. If you run an exemption process, presumably that includes the prospect than exemptions can be granted based on scientific advice. We have received no response related to the expert advice we have provided," Mr Carroll said.
AIS Chief Medical Officer Dr David Hughes says while he respects the South Australian process is designed to keep the state safe, the decision to reject the athletes' application is profoundly flawed.
"To have individuals quarantined for such a lengthy period of time is in my opinion unreasonable and cannot be scientifically justified. It poses a significant risk to the physical and mental wellbeing of the individuals concerned," Dr Hughes said.
Mr Carroll says numerous attempts to resolve this matter over some weeks without success.
"National Cabinet took a position that a double quarantine arrangement was unacceptable. Every COVID-safe procedure we have asked the Olympians to undergo, they have complied with. They can safely transfer to their home states after the mandatory hotel quarantine period without interacting with the public.
The AOC wrote formally to the South Australian Chief Medical Officer after weeks of discussions with departmental staff. Today the AOC was informed of the decision that the Olympians would be required to home quarantine, on top of the two weeks hotel quarantine just completed.
Mr Carroll says the home quarantine option is no less impactful. First the athletes are required to apply for home quarantine, with no certainty of approval.
"Athletes subject to home quarantine will not be permitted a welcome home hug. Either the athlete's family must move away, the athlete must find a way of isolating from the family or the entire family goes into quarantine. That is not an acceptable option for someone who is fully vaccinated and who has already just completed two weeks' quarantine," Mr Carroll concluded.