The United States bobsled and skeleton team has been dealing with COVID-19 trouble a week before the Olympics, with multiple positive tests affecting travel plans in recent days, sources told Yahoo Sports.
One bobsledder, Josh Williamson, revealed Wednesday that he had tested positive. He was, according to three sources familiar with the situation, not the only team member affected. Multiple coaches, support staff and at least one other athlete have tested positive, sources said.
A USA Bobsled and Skeleton official confirmed Friday evening that the team's delegation had "had multiple positive COVID-19 tests," but did not provide further details.
"It's all a nightmare," one athlete told Yahoo Sports.
Additionally, team doctor Eugene Byrne said in a since-deleted Instagram post that he had "arrived 5 days ago in Europe and tested positive for covid." He said he was on his way home "to rest and recover."
After two sources confirmed that Byrne had tested positive, and after a USABS official was told about the Instagram post, it was deleted.
The USABS official said that, "at this time," the federation "still expect[s] everyone to go to Beijing." Some athletes and staff have already arrived, on a Team USA charter flight that departed from California on Thursday. Others now hope to depart on separate flights in the coming days.
The Games officially begin next Friday, Feb. 4, but bobsled competition does not begin until Feb. 13. The first day of training runs is Feb. 10.
Various Olympics flights will run between the U.S. and Beijing between now and then. Williamson, a 25-year-old first-time Olympian, said he was hoping to catch one of them. He said he first tested positive this past Sunday, meaning he'll likely clear his infection well before the two-man and four-man bobsled competitions, which begin Feb. 14 and 19, respectively.
Olympic rules, however, present extra hurdles. Williamson — like every other member of the delegation who has tested positive this month — will need four consecutive days of negative tests, plus a fifth-day buffer, before he can depart, according to updated protocols finalized late last week.
Each of the four tests must be a PCR test, which can remain positive for weeks after a person clears the contagious phase of their infection.
All Olympic participants will also get tested upon arrival at Beijing's airport, and then daily throughout their stay, regardless of previous infections. According to organizers, 736 athletes and team officials arrived on Friday, and 19 of them tested positive at the airport.
Among the other Olympic teams known to have had pre-Games COVID-19 issues are the Norwegian cross-country skiing, German skeleton, Russian bobsled and Russian figure skating teams.
In total, 22 athletes and team officials have tested positive at the Beijing airport this week. That figure does not include pre-departure positives like Williamson's and others within USA Bobsled and Skeleton.