Rory McIlroy became the most well-known athlete in the world to withdraw from the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, citing fears of the Zika virus for his decision.
“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” McIlroy said in a statement. “After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realise 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.”
He joins a growing number of golfers who don’t want to risk their professional careers for what, while a once-in-a-lifetime experience, is also an exhibition. Other golfers to withdraw their names from eligibility include Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman, and Vijay Singh.
The Zika virus has been proven to lead to birth defects, and can lay dormant for years before inflicting damage. Considering McIlroy is engaged to girlfriend Erica Stoll, the risk of him passing on the virus to someone close to him is magnified.