Pau Gasol Might Skip The Olympics Because Of The Zika Virus
''I'm thinking about [whether or not to go], just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it.''
Spanish basketball player Pau Gasol may not compete at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro due to concerns he has over the Zika virus.
Gasol, who plays for the Chicago Bulls and has represented Spain on the court in the past three summer Olympics, told the Associated Press on Monday that he was currently considering the risk of playing in Rio and contracting the virus.
'"I'm thinking about [whether or not to go],'' he said. "'Just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it.'"
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Zika virus a global health emergency. The mosquito-borne disease, which is known to cause serious birth defects, has shown up in 28 countries, including Brazil.
Gasol said other Spanish athletes were also debating whether to compete in Brazil.
''It wouldn't surprise me to see some athletes deciding not to participate in the games to avoid putting their health and the health of their families at risk,” he said.
“Some of these athletes are planning to have children in the near future and this could affect them. It could affect the health of their kids and their wives,'' he added.
More than 150 public health workers and scientists recently signed an open letter to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan urging her to advocate for a postponement or relocation of the Olympics.
The WHO on Sunday dismissed the call, arguing that “canceling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus.”
Gasol referenced the open letter on Monday, and said he wanted to play an active role in seeking out the most up-to-date information on the virus so that he and other athletes could make informed decisions about whether or not to play.
''I feel responsible to know more about the situation and to inform everyone about it,'' he said. ''It's important to talk openly about this. It's a very delicate situation.''
Gasol is just one of several athletes throughout the world who have expressed concerns about competing in the games this August.
U.S. Women’s National soccer player Alex Morgan, who says she plans to have children one day, called the virus “kind of scary” in an interview with Health magazine on May 10.
“You don't know how long the virus lasts in your system, and that's an issue for someone who's trying to get pregnant,” she said. “I am concerned, but I really do trust the International Olympic Committee about traveling in Brazil.”
Morgan’s teammate, goalkeeper Hope Solo, “begrudgingly” decided to play after some consideration, but told CNBC that she would not likely leave her hotel room outside of practice to protect herself from the mosquitos.
Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy told the AP that he had planned to get vaccinated before heading to Rio to combat the disease, despite the fact that no such vaccination yet exists for Zika.
Some competitors, like Australian golfer Marc Leishman, have already decided to pull out of the games.
"It was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate," said the 32-year-old, according to the BBC.