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Should Olympic Athletes Be Prohibited Shaking Hands?


“The Olympic environment is a pretty hostile one”, said Dr. Ian McCurdie, and the British Olympic Association followed up advising the Team GB athletes not to shake hands before and during the London Olympics, in order to prevent illness.

According to British media reports, the advice is part of a detailed package of health and resilience issues that the BOA has looked at ahead of the Games for the 550-strong team of athletes and 450 support staff who will work with them. A mild illness that could knock athletes off their stride might be picked up in the “quite stressful environment” of the Games, explained Dr McCurdie, the BOA chief medical officer. It could hamper athletes’ chances of performing at their best, he said.

On whether this meant shaking hands should be off-limits, he said: “I think, within reason, yes. I think that is not such a bad thing to advise. The difficulty is when you have got some reception and you have got a line of about 20 people you have never met before who you have got to shake hands with.  Within reason if you do and have to shake hands with people, so long as you understand that regular hand washing and/or also using hand foam can help reduce the risk – that would be a good point.”

“Almost certainly, I believe, the greatest threat to performance is illness and possibly injury”, Dr. McCurdie added, “At an Olympic Games or any major event the performance impact of becoming ill or even feeling a little bit ill can be significant. “Essentially we are talking about minimizing risk of illness and optimizing resistance. Minimizing exposure and getting bugs into the system and being more robust to manage those should that happen.” He noted that the Olympic environment is “a pretty hostile one”.

This piece appeared in The Sport Intern, a newsletter that is published 5 days each week by Karl Heinz-Huba, a German journalist based in Lorsch, Germany.  He can be reached by email at ismg@aol.com.   He bills his publication as the inside international sports newsletter.


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