PARIS • The lack of golf stars at the Rio Olympics will be a key factor when deciding whether to keep the sport for Tokyo 2020, according to International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach .
The world's top four - Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy - are among about 20 golfers who have withdrawn from the Olympics, where golf is making its return after 112 years.
Many have cited fears about the Zika virus but the withdrawals have led to questions about whether golf will remain in the Olympics.
Bach said on Wednesday that the presence of a sport's top stars would be "one of the main categories" considered in an evaluation after Rio.
"We have to respect the individual decisions even if they are going contrary to recommendations given by the World Health Organisation" on Zika, he said when asked by the media about the spate of withdrawals from the sport.
"We see now in the discussion in the golf community there are obviously very different reasons for not going to Rio, not related to Zika. And we are also following with interest the discussion in the golf community, how they themselves are considering these decisions and what judgments they are making."
DECISION PENDING ON TOKYO
We are also following with interest the discussion in the golf community, how they ... are considering these decisions and what judgments they are making.
THOMAS BACH , International Olympic Committee president.
Bach said the Olympic tournament would be judged along with other sports.
"In one of the main categories of the evaluation is of course the question of the participation of the best players. So, let us wait then for this evaluation and then of course we will also speak with the International Golf Federation once this is available," he said.
The IOC president also said that athletes from one sport should not be punished for the sins of those from another, cooling speculation that Russia could be banned from the Olympics altogether for systematic doping.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is due to issue a report on Monday covering its investigation into allegations that a Russian state-run system helped doped athletes escape detection at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, is one of several people who have said that if the report does confirm the allegations of systemic doping are true, then Russia should be banned from the Rio Olympics.
Russia's track and field athletes are already banned.
However, Bach said: "It is obvious you cannot sanction a badminton player for an infringement of the rules by an official or a lab director at the Winter Games.
"In the same way we would not consider sanctioning all athletes from a particular sport if there is manipulation of the rules by the leadership of a federation.
"What we have to do is take decisions based on facts and to find the right balance between a collective responsibility and individual justice."
He added that he did not want to speculate about what measures could be taken until there is evidence of any proven infringement.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS