Savannah Guthrie Isn’t the Only Person to Opt Out of the Olympics
Athletes are expressing their concerns about the Zika risk in Rio.
On Tuesday morning, Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie revealed that she is pregnant with her second baby, and announced that she will not be traveling to Rio de Janeiro to participate in NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics.
"The doctors say that we shouldn't because of the Zika virus, so I'll miss it," Guthrie explained. "You're going to have to go to female beach volleyball without me," she said to to co-anchor Matt Lauer. "Try to carry on."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, NBCUniversal is not requiring its employees to travel to Brazil if they are concerned about the virus.
Pregnant women have been warned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to avoid traveling to areas where the mosquito-born virus is spreading, including any part of Brazil that's under 6,500 feet in elevation. Rio de Janeiro sits almost at sea level.
Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, a severe birth defect that causes a baby to be born with a smaller-than-normal head, often caused by abnormal brain development. In adults, the virus has been associated with Guillian-Barré Syndrome, a rare disease of the nervous system.
Amid growing fears surrounding the virus, Guthrie is not the only one to express concern about the Zika risk in Rio. Athletes are voicing their concerns as well.
Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the United States women's soccer team, told CNBC that she would "begrudgingly" participate in the Olympics. "I strongly believe that no athlete should be put into this position—to decide between your Olympic dreams and your own health," she said.
Solo's teammate and Health's June cover star, Alex Morgan, talked about Zika in an interview for her cover story: "The Zika virus is definitely a concern. You don't know how long the virus lasts in your system, and that's an issue for someone who's trying to get pregnant," she said.
Last week, Tejay van Garderen, a top American cyclist, withdrew his name for consideration for a spot on the United States cycling team. His wife is pregnant, and he doesn't want to risk any complications. In an interview with CyclingTips, he explained that "if anything were to happen, I couldn’t live with myself.”
In May, Australian golfer Marc Leishman announced that he would not be traveling to Rio to compete. According to a statement put out by the PGA of Australia, his wife nearly died from toxic shock syndrome a year ago. "We have consulted with Audrey's physician and due to her ongoing recovery and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate," Leishman said.
Greg Rutherford, a British long jumper who won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, is still planning to go Rio, but he is taking a precaution: He will have his sperm frozen before he travels, his partner, Susie Verill, revealed in an article for Standard Issue. "We’d love to have more children and with research in its infancy, I wouldn’t want to put myself in a situation which could have been prevented," she wrote.
CDC guidelines state that pregnant couples with men who travel to areas with Zika should either use condoms or abstain from sex throughout the pregnancy. For couples who are not pregnant (and not trying to become pregnant), the CDC suggests using a condom or refraining from sex for at least 8 weeks for men who never show Zika symptoms. Men diagnosed with Zika or who have Zika symptoms should use protection or wait to have sex for 6 months.
Spanish basketball player Pau Gasol, who is considering sitting out of this year's Games, recently urged all athletes headed to Rio to think about whether it's worth the risk. "Some of these athletes are planning to have children in the near future and this could affect them, it could affect the health of their kids and their wives," he said at an event in Madrid, according to the Associated Press. "Their health should come first."