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IOC official disagrees coronavirus vaccine needed for Olympics

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SYDNEY (AP) — The head of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics said Wednesday he disagrees with suggestions by some scientists and doctors that a vaccine for COVID-19 is needed to hold the Games.

John Coates, an International Olympic Committee member from Australia who is a lawyer, said he had seen the opinion but didn’t agree.

“The advice we’re getting from WHO (World Health Organization) says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we’re doing, and that’s not contingent on a vaccine,” Coates told the Australian Associated Press. “A vaccine would be nice. But we will just continue to be guided by WHO and the Japanese health authorities.”

On Tuesday, Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura said it would only be possible for the Olympics to go ahead in July 2021 if the infections were under control, not only in Japan, but globally.

“In my view, it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed,” Yokokura said.

Coates offered no details how 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians from more than 200 nations and territories could safely enter — and exit — Japan without spreading the virus. They would be housed together in the Athletes Village.

They would also be accompanied by thousands of staff members and coaches, and thousands more technical officials who have to run the events. Add to this thousands of world broadcasters, who pay billions for the rights to the Olympics — a critical element, particularly if the Olympics are held with limited numbers of spectators.

Coates said a lot of work had been done since the postponement and the target was still to have 43 venues for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Coates was speaking in Australia a day after Yokokura told a video media conference of his concerns.

Devi Sridhar, a professor of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh, also said holding the Olympics may depend on finding a vaccine. The same could apply to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

According to Johns Hopkins University data on Wednesday, Japan had reported about 13,700 cases of COVID-19 with 394 deaths.

When the delay was announced last month, IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided the Tokyo Games would not be held beyond the summer of 2021.

MORE: Michael Phelps on rewatching every Beijing Olympic final

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Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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