The Zika virus is a global epidemic that’s starting to take its toll on global sports competitions.
Add Rory McIlroy, ranked 4th on the official World Golf Rankings, to the growing list of golfers that’re passing on the Rio Olympics thanks to the virus.
McIlroy joins fellow competitors Vijay Singh, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel who’re skipping the event. The Irishman said it was a risk he’s ‘unwilling to take’.
McIlroy released a statement Wednesday morning:
“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realize that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.
“I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me.
“I will continue to endeavour to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it.”
McIlroy’s participation was always wavering, not sounding entirely confident that he’d be a lock representing Ireland at the games. He made his concerns over Rio known, saying he’d be ‘monitoring’ developments. The 27-year-old cited articles saying the situation may be more severe than what’s being reported.
The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) responded to McIlroy’s decision with understandable disappointment.
“However, as we have always said, it is down to the individual and of course we respect his decision, which he has taken for personal reasons.
“Rory was set to be one of the big stars of Rio 2016, but now there is an opportunity for another Irish golfer to take up the chance to become an Olympian and participate in golf’s historic return to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence.”
The OCI reiterated their complete confidence in the IOC and the safety of their athletes, trusting the Olympic committee’s call on the potential risks and dangers of Zika.
“We are now following the IOC’s recommendations, as well as the recommendations of the Rio 2016 organisers, the World Health Organisation and national health authorities, to ensure that Team Ireland’s athletes are kept fully updated with the latest and best advice, and that they are equipped to take all necessary precautions.”
The Zika virus has been connected to birth defects – namely microcephaly – and the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome in adult victims.