Former national sailor Ben Tan appointed to IOC's medical and scientific commission

SINGAPORE – In what is another feather to his cap, Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Benedict Tan has been appointed to the Medical and Scientific Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The Commission, which is chaired by IOC member Ugur Erdener, advises the IOC Session, IOC Executive Board and its president, Mr Thomas Bach, on athletes’ health, the promotion of health and physical activity, and the protection of clean athletes.

Its key responsibilities also include supervising the provision of healthcare and doping control services to athletes during the Olympic and Youth Olympic Games.

This is the first IOC appointment for Dr Tan, who also chairs World Sailing’s Medical Commission and is Singapore’s chef de mission for the contingent competing at next year’s Tokyo Olympics. The sports physician is head of SingHealth Duke-NUS Sport and Exercise Medicine Centre and chief of sports medicine at Changi General Hospital.

The former Olympic sailor said on Tuesday (June 2) that he is “deeply honoured and humbled” by the appointment, adding that this new role would expand his work scope at World Sailing to all Olympic sports.

He added: “I hope to continue to enhance the sports medicine and sports science support to our athletes in Singapore as well, to enable them to realise their full potential.”

With the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the international sporting calendar in recent months, many professional sports leagues and events are on hold or have been cancelled, with the Tokyo Games organisers and IOC announcing in March that the 2020 event would be postponed by a year.

While football’s German Bundesliga restarted last month, with the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A set to follow suit, many athletes are still concerned about the coronavirus, which has infected more than 6.3 million people and killed over 370,000 worldwide.

Olympics host Japan had over 16,000 cases and 892 deaths as of Tuesday, and a number of experts have warned that the Games could be in jeopardy if a vaccine is not found by then.

When asked if the commission would work with the IOC and Games organisers on safety protocols for athletes, Dr Tan said that there is “close collaboration and engagement” between the medical bodies of the international sports federations, IOC, World Health Organisation and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.

He added: We are all working towards the same goal – to deliver a safe Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.

“The pandemic is evolving and, at this time, it is difficult to have full visibility of the situation come July 2021. Developments are very closely monitored on many fronts, by many parties.”

Like other Olympic-bound athletes around the world, Singapore’s national athletes were unable to train after sports facilities, including stadiums, gyms and swimming pools, were closed during the circuit breaker period from April 7 to June 1. A group of about 30 athletes who have qualified or are close to qualifying for Tokyo, including swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, diver Jonathan Chan and gymnast Tan Sze En, were allowed to resume training under controlled conditions at selected venues on Tuesday.

Dr Tan said: “As athletes, we are trained to control what is within our control. Hence, it is very heartening to see the respective national sports associations, under the leadership of Sport Singapore and Singapore Sport Institute, working with the multi-ministry task force to enable our athletes who have qualified or are close to qualifying, to resume training under controlled conditions.”

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