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Closing facilities and restricting play for the student body means it should be applied to all students

On Oct.15, CTV News reported that five Gee-Gees football players had tested positive for COVID-19. The Fulcrum interviewed a player on the team who revealed that the Gees had previously shut down group training and practices due to players testing positive for the virus and had just gotten back on the field a week prior to CTV’s report breaking. 

Earlier that day, the governing body of all university-level sports across Canada, U Sports, announced the cancellation of all 2021 winter national championship events due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ontario University Athletics (OUA) also announced the cancellation of all sanctioned sport programming and championships until March 31, 2021. Finally, the Réseau du Sport Étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) suspended all university sport programming until further notice.

These announcements were the result of a spike in cases associated with the dreaded ‘second-wave’ of the COVID-19 pandemic which has been felt not only locally but nationally. Ironically, the same day as the Gee-Gees news, Canada beat its previous record for daily new cases with 4042 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Ottawa has also been struggling mightily with containing the spread of the virus, topping the 100 new case per day mark multiple times in the last two weeks and the 500 new cases per week mark in the last three weeks. 

This has forced Ottawa Public Health (OPH) to classify Ottawa as a ‘red zone’ in relation to the spread of COVID-19 in the general population. As such, the Ford government decided to close all dine-in areas in restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, and performing arts venues for the next four weeks in hopes of decreasing the spread of the virus. 

All of these factors resulted in the University closing all gyms, the pool and cancelling all recreational sports on campus. The kicker? This applies to everyone except for varsity training. 

Despite Ottawa moving back into ‘Stage 2’ and clamping down on health restrictions, varsity athletes have been given a hall pass to keep using U of O facilities in groups and playing their respective sports. Again, more irony, the athletes were the ones to have a five-person breakout. 

So this begs the question. Should U of O varsity athletes be allowed to continue to hold practices and have workouts?

If the increase in cases wasn’t enough, the cancellations from U Sports, OUA and temporary cancelation of RSEQ sports means no Gee-Gee will step on the field, court or ice for most of the 2020-21 season. So why are they allowed to train? Why are they the exception?

The U of O’s varsity athletics department has been clear with athletes that the only way they can stay on the field is if they obey all the rules set out in Varsity Athletics Behavioural Guidelines. These are a set of strict guidelines that student-athletes are asked to follow both on and off the field.

“What will allow us to continue training on campus with our teams is how student-athletes behave and/or the choices they make outside of campus in their social settings,” wrote Sue Hylland, the director of varsity athletics in an email sent to Gee-Gees coaches this week. 

“All athletes have signed off on [the] Varsity Athletics Behavioural Guidelines and it is important they understand that sanctions for anyone not adhering to some of the simple things we are asking, will be applied.”

It is unclear if the football players broke the Varsity Athletics Behavioural Guidelines, but even if they didn’t, the news that five players tested positive is concerning. Though, the University did admit they “received reports that some players were not following self-isolation rules,” and “therefore put the health and safety of their teammates, the University community and the public at risk.” 

There is a line in Hylland’s email that is very telling of varsity athletics worries with the non-respect of the guidelines. 

“They must understand that being healthy, fit young people they may not even be aware of the fact they are carrying the virus (are asymptomatic). So it requires further increased attention and respect for the rules in social settings.”

But clearly, something has already gone wrong in the world of athletics with the news of the football team. So why keep that social setting available? If the University is denying sport and recreation for the student body, why aren’t they doing so for the varsity athletes? Closing facilities and restricting play for the student body means it should be applied to all students. 

Plus, regular students who may be roommates with athletes or interact with them in their workplace didn’t sign a waiver or the Varsity Athletics Behavioural Guidelines. If a regular student gets sick and the transmission is traced back to varsity athletics, it could result in an outbreak on campus and probably a real legal clusterfuck.  

We understand the purpose of athletes training in groups is so they don’t lose chemistry with their teammates and so they are ready for the games, but there won’t be any games.

As our editor-in-chief’s old baseball coach once said, it’s time to ‘shut-her-down.’

Editorials are written by the Fulcrum’s fourteen-person editorial board and express the shared opinion of Fulcrum’s editorial staff. To share your own views, email editor@thefulcrum.ca.