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Richmond Olympian rails at idea of athletes jumping vaccine queue

Richmond Olympic racewalker Evan Dunfee had some choice words for IOC member Dick Pound over suggestions of athletes getting the COVID vaccine out of turn
Evan Dunfee (right) at the closing ceremony for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“We should wait our turn in line while frontline and essential workers, as well as all other vulnerable groups, get their vaccines first.”

That’s the view of Richmond’s Olympic racewalker Evan Dunfee in the wake of Canada’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, Dick Pound, saying athletes need to be given priority access to the COVID vaccine to safeguard the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Pound, a long-time IOC official, said that, as long as athletes can jump the line, he was confident the games would go ahead and, given the stature of the Games, he didn’t think the general public would have a problem with it.

Not so, said Dunfee in his blog and in an interview with the Richmond News, who claimed he spoke for many of his fellow Team Canada athletes.

“Taking the vaccine ahead of our turn would basically destroy the value we have as role models,” Dunfee told the News.

He said there’s a very good reason he’s “perfectly content” to take his place in line, even if it means not taking his place in an Olympics that he’s already qualified for.

“That reason has to do with the value of an Olympian,” Dunfee said in his blog.

“I, as an elite athlete representing Canada, am carded. That means I get about $28,000 a year from the federal government to support my training. That money isn’t a hand out, as I am not a charity.

“With that money comes an expectation to create value for my country — a return on investment, if you will. In athletics we have roughly 50 athletes carded at the senior level.

“A few of us might bring value to society (as it is society who pays us) by running fast or jumping high and providing entertainment.

“The rest of us, not least of which me — the guy who walks fast for hours — may perform well and ignite national pride but our main value comes away from the field of play.”

Pound told Sky News recently that Olympic athletes getting the vaccine ahead of time is a “decision for each country to make…And there will be people saying they are jumping the queue, but I think that is the most realistic way of (The Games) going ahead.

"In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes — to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level — I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that."

The Olympics are less than 200 days away and the COVID situation in Japan is as bad as most in Europe and other parts of the world.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) was more diplomatic in its language, saying in a statement that it can’t assume “vaccines will be widely available, how they will be distributed or when they will be available for Canadian athletes."

Irrespective of what conversations are going on behind the scenes regarding athletes getting the vaccine earlier, Dunfee is adamant he won’t be jumping the line.

“My value is in what I do when I come home from the Olympics, how I behave and engage within my community,” he added in his blog.

“My value is in getting people active. My value is in talking to tens of thousands of schoolkids about what it means to set big goals, to work really hard, and to define yourself not by whether you win or lose but by how much progress you make along the way. My value is in being a role model.”

If the Games somehow do go ahead as planned, Dunfee said he’s heard that athletes will be getting “kicked out” of their athletes’ village right after their competition finishes, to avoid unnecessary contact.

“I think there’s a sentiment (In Japan) to either delay it again or cancel it altogether.

“It’s so up in the there. I think March they are going to decide either way, because there’s still people needing to qualify for events. I’ve already qualified, so I’ll just keep training in the hope it goes ahead.”

Read Dunfee's full blog here at