American cyclist Tejay van Garderen understands the opportunities that he might contract the Zika virus at the Rio Olympics are minimal, and that precautions could be taken to further reduce the threat.
With a pregnant wife at home , not even the smallest risk was worth it.
Van Garderen receded his name from its further consideration of the road cycling squad Thursday, building him perhaps the first U.S. athlete to back out of the Summer Games because of the mosquito-borne illness is the responsibility of causing birth defect including microcephaly, in which the baby’s brain does not develop properly.
“I don’t want to risk bringing anything back who are likely have an effect, ” van Garderen said in an email to The Associated Press. “If the circumstances were different I would have loved to be selected again to represent the USA, but my family takes priority and it’s a decision I’m totally comfy with.”
USA Cycling spokesman Kevin Loughery told van Garderen is the only rider to back out of consideration for the U.S. cycling team. The final rosters for road, BMX and mountain biking are expected June 24.
Van Garderen, a member of the 2012 Olympic team in London, would have been a likely selection for one of the two U.S. spots in the road race. The 27 -year-old Tour de France veteran is a strong time trial rider and his climbing ability would have been well-suited to the hilly course at the Rio Olympics.
But van Garderen’s wife, Jessica, is due in October, and there is evidence that suggests the disease can be transmitted sexually or through blood-to-blood contact.
“I hope that I’ll be in the position to race at the 2020 Olympic Game, ” van Garderen said.
CyclingTips was first to report that van Garderen had backed out.
The decision comes a month after Marc Leishman said he would not play golf for Australia at the Olympics in August, quoting concerns over Zika. His spouse, Audrey, virtually succumbed last year from toxic shock disorder and Leishman chose he couldn’t danger the journey to Brazil.
Rio organizers told the International Olympic Committee executive board on Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, that the Zika threat should diminish dramatically during Brazil’s winter months. They demonstrated a graphic indicating the rate of infection falls significantly from June to September.
“The rate of infection fells to very low numbers, very near zero, ” Rio spokesman Mario Andrada said.
Organizing committee chief Carlos Nuzman told athletes such as Usain Bolt, Rafael Nadal and members of the U.S. basketball team have said they have no worries, though others including U.S. soccer player Hope Solo and tennis star Serena Williams have expressed reservations.
“This is no public health risk” that would warrant postponing or moving video games, Nuzman said.
Andrada said zero cases of Zika were recorded during 44 exam events involving 7,000 athletes and 8,000 volunteers. Rio organizers will ramp up a campaign to convince athletes and visitors the games will be safe, though Andrada told pregnant women or women planning to get pregnant should take precautions.
“We believe girls that are planning pregnancies “re going to have to” take extra care and it is up to them and their family to decide, ” Andrada said. “They have to make this decision in privacy.”
Last week, a group of 150 health experts called for the Rio Game to be moved or postponed because of Zika. The World Health Organization said there was “no public health justification” for such a step.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Thursday he had not heard about van Garderen’s withdraw, but added that the committee “follows the recognise global authority on health, the WHO.”
“Everyone would expect a athletics organization to follow the relevant recommendations of the authority, ” Adams said. “They issued new advice on Saturday with some clear steps to be taken especially involving pregnant women. We think that’s good advisory opinions and we stick by it.”
U.S. track cyclist Sarah Hammer, who will compete in two events at the Rio Game, told the AP that she is not worried about Zika but that she is training herself before traveling to Brazil.
“There’s always something. In Beijing it was air quality, in London it was security, ” Hammer told. “Am I fretted? No. Am I altogether ignorant on it? No. I’m going to take all the proper precautions I need.”
Hammer has actually been to the Amazon rainforest several times on vacation, though never during such a public health crisis. But she said “I’ve always protected myself. And that’s what we’ll do.”
USA Cycling chief executive Derek Bouchard-Hall said the U.S. Olympic Committee has taken the lead on education athletes and “we defer to them” when it is necessary to preparations.
Bouchard-Hall did recognise South America’s first Olympics has been beset by problems.
“I think it has been dogged more than normal and some of the things are beyond their control, and some are not, ” he told the AP. “For us, it’s the velodrome( postpones) and some infrastructure problems and the Zika virus, which is not Brazil’s fault per se. But they’re confront a lot of difficult challenges.”
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