A Ugandan weightlifter has gone missing from a pre-Tokyo 2020 training camp in Japan, the country’s Olympic Committee has confirmed.
Local officials are searching for Julius Sekitoleko, who disappeared in western Japan on Friday having been part of a nine-member Ugandan team who were training in Izumisano, Osaka prefecture.
The alarm had been raised at around noon local time on Friday, when team-mates realised the 20-year-old athlete had not delivered his Covid-19 saliva test sample as required.
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According to city officials, Sekitoleko’s hotel room was empty. There had been no training on Friday and therefore the last sighting of the weightlifter had been in his room just after midnight that morning.
Following a sweep of the hotel, officials notified the police who are helping in the search for Sekitoleko. The Uganda team hotel was not under 24-hour surveillance, so it not known exactly how he got out of the building.
The Ugandan delegation, which included boxers, a swimmer and a weightlifter as well as coaches, have been preparing for the Games in Izumisano since late June.
“The member is Julius Sekitoleko a weightlifter. It was anticipated that he would qualify for the games however he did not make the quota as informed by International Weightlifting Federation on 5 July 2021," the Uganda Olympic Committee said in a statement.
He together with his coach where (sic) due to return to Uganda on July 20 2021.
"We, during our regular team briefings both in Uganda and in Japan emphasised inter alia the need to respect the immigration regulations of Japan and not opt to leave the camp without authorisation.
"Our team in Izumisano is cooperating the Osaka authorities to try and locate Mr Sekitoleko. We shall keep you posted on any further developments in this regard.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said: "The IOC has been informed about the situation of one Ugandan athlete. We are in touch with the NOC in order to clarify the situation."
This is not the first time that Uganda have come to the attention of authorities in Japan since arriving at Narita Airport in Tokyo on 19 June.
One member of the team tested positive on arrival and was quarantined there, while the remainder of the team were allowed to continue on a journey of more than 300 miles to Izumisano by chartered bus.
However, a second member of the team tested positive days later, meaning that seven local officials and drivers were required to self-isolate due to being identified as close contacts.
Team training was eventually allowed to continue on 7 July after both athletes had completed their required periods of quarantine.
The earlier case prompted the Japanese authorities to step up border controls and change isolation policy to require entire groups to quarantine in airport areas when any member tests positive.
Teams preparing for the Games are required to use health and location apps, while activity is restricted to “bubbles” in order to isolate athletes and delegates from the wider Japanese public.
However, violations have been reported and according to the Associated Press monitors pledged by Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa have not been seen operating at a number of hotels.
Marukawa insisted on Friday that she is asking organisers to strengthen measures and increase surveillance staff at hotels to ensure that the strict rules are followed.
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