Australia have become the latest team to withdraw from the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Final Olympic Qualifier in Mexico.
Australia join Chinese Taipei, who announced last week they had pulled out of the tournament in Puebla, scheduled to take place between June 22 and June 26, ending their chances of qualifying for Tokyo 2020.
Taiwan - known as Chinese Taipei at the Olympics - was initially scheduled to host the tournament before a spike in COVID-19 cases saw the WBSC seek a new host.
China had already withdrawn from the Final Olympic Qualifier before it was moved to Mexico.
Baseball Australia has now followed Chinese Taipei, at number four the highest-ranked team not have to have qualified for Tokyo 2020, because it claimed of "insurmountable" challenges of travelling to Mexico at such short notice.
Australia, ranked sixth in the WBSC world standings, would have been the favourites to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in Mexico.
"Attending the Final Olympic Qualifier in a COVID world was always going to present significant challenges," Baseball Australia chief executive Glenn Williams said.
"The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change in location and dates, those plans became obsolete.
"We worked through multiple options and scenarios but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable."
Williams, a member of Australia’s team that won an Olympic silver medal at Athens 2004, revealed that several factors had been taken into consideration when making the decision.
"Athlete health and safety was always of paramount importance and there were simply too many unanswered questions presenting significant risks post the event and in transiting back to Australia," he said.
"The complexity of moving such a large group, through two countries, with limited flight availability, presented a real risk of members of the group being stranded overseas and requiring medical treatment
"Timing of entry back into Australia also presented difficulties in establishing a clear path to Tokyo for the team if they qualified.
"Even if Team Australia were successful in winning the event, the timing didn’t allow for the team to complete quarantine in Australia and meet the requirements of entry to the Tokyo Games.
"Coordinating a camp overseas at such short notice that meets the [Tokyo 2020] playbook requirements was also not an option
"The athletes and staff have worked diligently in preparing for the event throughout the constantly changing landscape.
"As always, they’ve continued to commit to Team Australia and it’s really disappointing they won’t have the chance to chase a berth at the Tokyo Olympics."
The qualifier was moved to Mexico on May 21 after a spike of coronavirus cases in Taiwan and the country enforced a range of new measures which would have kept foreign residents out of the nation until after the event was set to start.
Puebla was only confirmed by the WBSC as the host city on May 29.
Australia’s decision leaves Venezuela, The Netherlands and Dominican Republic, ranked eighth, ninth and 10th respectively in the world, chasing the final place for Tokyo 2020 when baseball will return to the Olympic programme for the first time since Beijing 2008.
The three teams are due to start off with a round-robin, with the top finisher advancing directly into the final.
The second- and third-place finishers from the round-robin will meet in a one-game playoff for a place in the final.
Dominican Republic and Venezuela finished in second and third at the recent Americas Olympic Qualifier to earn the place in the final qualifier, while The Netherland's finished in second place in the September 2019 European and Africa Olympic baseball qualifier to earn their spot.
The winner in Mexico will be the sixth and final participant in the upcoming Olympic baseball tournament, joining number one Japan, number two United States, number three South Korea, number five Mexico and number 18 Israel.