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Rory McIlroy pulls out of the Rio Olympics over Zika virus fears

The golfer has said it is a risk he is unwilling to take.

Image: Charlie Riedel

RORY MCILROY HAS withdrawn from this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero over fears of the Zika virus.

In a statement released this morning, the four-time Major winner said he is unwilling to take the risk of contracting the virus, which evidence has shown can lead to birth defects in new-born babies.

McIlroy, who chose to represent Ireland over Great Britain, was guaranteed a place on the two-man team, with Shane Lowry the other leading candidate.

The 27-year-old previously admitted his concern over the threat but last month hinted that he would travel to Rio as golf returns to the Games for the first time since 1904.

He becomes the latest high-profile golfer to pull out.

Australian Adam Scott, South African pair Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen and Vijay Singh are among those who have already decided against playing in Rio.

“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero,” his statement read.

“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 endeavor to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it.”

Rory McIlroy File Photo McIlroy is engaged to Erica Stoll and voiced concerns over the virus' potential impact on their plans to start a family. Source: Adam Davy

In response to McIlroy’s statement, the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has expressed its disappointment but says it respects the world number four’s decision.

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“The OCI is extremely disappointed not to be taking Rory with us to Rio. 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,” the statement read.

“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 and our medical team have taken our lead from the IOC on the zika situation, as we do in all matters. They have provided us with every assurance and we have total confidence that the Games will be safe for all athletes.

“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 OCI regularly updates the private Team Ireland app guidelines and we have held a number of sport seminars and workshops for team leaders, coaches and medical support staff. The OCI is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the welfare of Team Ireland’s athletes at Rio 2016.”

Replacing McIlroy will probably be his Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow Northern Irishman Graham McDowell alongside the higher-ranked Lowry, who led the US Open going into the final round last Sunday.

More than 60 countries and territories have been affected by the ongoing Zika outbreak. Most of them are in Latin America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause the birth defect microcephaly, leading babies to be born with unusually small heads and deformed brains.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), however, said earlier this month that there was a “very low risk” of the Zika virus spreading further internationally as a result of the Olympic Games.

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‘I’ve learnt to deal with those situations. If something is said or written I don’t get as upset by it’

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