AP Interview: Italian swimmers locked up in Alpine resort

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FILE - In this July 21, 2019 file picture, Italy's Gabriele Detti holds his bronze medal after the men's 400m freestyle final at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. A large portion of the Italian swimming team, 13 elite athletes, including Detti, has been locked in their tiny hotel rooms at a high-altitude training camp in the Alps for nearly two weeks with the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, file)

ROME – The high-altitude training camp in the Alps was supposed to represent ideal preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.

Instead, a large portion of the Italian swimming team — 13 elite athletes — has been locked in their tiny hotel rooms for nearly two weeks with the coronavirus.

Meals are left on trays outside their doors and the athletes are not permitted to leave.

“I don’t know exactly what prisoners’ lives are like but we are confined,” Gabriele Detti, a gold-medal contender in both the 400- and 800-meter freestyle, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It’s a bit like home arrest.”

Italian swimmers have been traveling to Livigno, which is located near the Swiss border at an altitude of nearly 2,000 meters (6,000 feet), for years in order to acquire a performance boost for their muscles through the addition of more red blood cells.

Now, though, the question is what effect remaining virtually immobile for so long at high altitude will have on their fine-tuned bodies.

“I’m afraid that everyone could lose muscle mass,” said Stefano Morini, one of three of the team’s staff members to also test positive and be put in quarantine. “When we restart we’ll have to start all over like it’s an entirely new season.”

The hotel rooms are so small that the most the athletes can do is some basic floor exercises.