A claim made on Facebook that suggests the continuation of professional sporting events is proof of SARS-CoV-2 being fake is false. The virus, which causes COVID-19, is real – and while sports in some countries have resumed, they have not resumed as normal.   

 The Facebook post making the claim was uploaded on March 4 and has nearly 1,000 likes. It reads: “If there was really a killer pathogen, would pro athletes risk their lives playing their sports every day? Of course not. They know it’s a stage show or they wouldn’t play. They know they are actors. Playing their roles in the biggest fraud ever orchestrated in recorded history. Athletes are under pay cheque mind control” (here). 

 The pandemic, however, is not a “fraud”. It is also misguided to draw conclusions on whether COVID-19 exists from the actions of athletes.  

Chinese authorities identified SARS-CoV-2 on Jan. 7, 2020, as being the cause of a cluster of pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan (here). As of March 10, it has killed more than 2.6 million people worldwide (covid19.who.int/).  

Sports events were cancelled en masse when the pandemic first hit (here) and there were concerns that athletes could be vulnerable to severe effects of COVID-19 (here).   

 However, in the United States it was argued that professional sports should be allowed to resume as they are multibillion-dollar enterprises that also have a positive effect on the nation’s morale (here, here). This resulted in the return of some events, albeit with stadiums empty of fans and strict social distancing and quarantine protocols to keep players safe (here, here).  

New research has also suggested COVID-19 does not pose a great risk to athletes. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in Feb. 2021 found outdoor football involving close contact between athletes presents a limited risk of infection and severe illness when preventive measures are in place (here). In March 2021, a North American study authored by medical experts from Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and other major sports leagues found there were a very few cases of inflammatory heart disease among professional athletes who suffer mild cases of COVID-19 (here).   

However, elite sports have not escaped the pandemic. In January, players in England’s Premier League were forced to isolate for ten days after testing positive (here), while NBA and National Hockey League (NHL) games in North America were postponed after a surge in cases (here). Former world number one tennis player Andy Murray tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Feb. 2021 and had to miss the Australian Open (here).   

 The UK government continues to be cautious and in Feb. 2021 outlined its plan for a “coordinated resumption of elite sport training and competition” that is necessary “ahead of any return to competitive sport itself” (here).   

VERDICT  

 False. The continuation of elite sports is not proof the pandemic is a hoax. Like the rest of the world, professional athletes have faced cancelled matches and handled new regulations to limit the spread of the coronavirus.  

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .  

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