5 athletes opting to skip Olympics due to Zika

Zika virus is running rampant in Brazil, and the risk of contracting the mosquito-borne virus has caused some potential Olympic athletes to back out of competing in Rio in August.

Zika virus has been linked to birth defects like microcephaly and can be spread sexually. In February, officials from the U.S. Olympic Committee recommended that athletes and staff members who were concerned about contracting Zika should consider skipping the 2016 Games in Rio. However, earlier this month, the World Health Organization's Emergency Committee on the Zika virus found there is "very low risk" the games will further the spread of Zika.

Despite the WHO's insistence of low risk, five athletes have officially withdrawn from the Olympics as of June 22, specifically citing Zika as the reason. They are listed below alphabetically by sport.


Tejay van Garderen (U.S.A)


Marc Leishman (Australia)

Rory McIlroy (Ireland)

Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)

Vijay Singh (Fiji)

According to the New York Times, it may be easier for golfers to skip the games because they have opportunities outside of the Olympics to make big money, unlike athletes in many others sports who rely on the Olympics for exposure or even a victory bonus.

Athletes aren't the only ones put at risk for Zika due to the Olympics. NBC host Savannah Guthrie, who is pregnant, announced on the Today show she will not go to Rio because of the virus.

Some other Olympic athletes have expressed fear about the Zika virus but have decided to travel to Rio anyway. For instance, Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S. women's soccer team, recently announced she will "begrudgingly" play in the Olympics, but said she's "not sure [she's] even going to be leaving the hotel room outside of practice" because of the virus, USA Today reported.

Still other athletes have expressed trepidation about attending the Rio games, but have not yet made an official decision to attend or stay at home, so the list above may grow before the games officially start Aug. 5.

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