United States women's goalkeeper Hope Solo has said the Zika virus spreading across some parts of South America would prevent her from travelling to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Speaking to Grant Wahl of SI.com on Monday, Solo suggested the illness could alter her decision to make the trip to this year's Olympic Games:
If I had to make the choice today, I wouldn’t go [to the Olympics]. I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child. I don’t know when that day will come for Jerramy and me, but I personally reserve my right to have a healthy baby. No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma. Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professional athletes don’t.
The United States women's national team begin its Olympic qualification campaign against Costa Rica on Wednesday.
Zika is a virus transmitted by mosquitoes and is suspected to be behind a rise in the number of babies born with microcephaly—a condition linked to an abnormal smallness of the head or incomplete brain development.
Solo added that competing in the Olympics should always be a "safe environment," and if it came down to choosing between the tournament and her or her child's health, she'd go with the latter:
We accept these particular choices as part of being a woman, but I do not accept being forced into making the decision between competing for my country and sacrificing the potential health of a child, or staying home and giving up my dreams and goals as an athlete.
Competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike. Female athletes should not be forced to make a decision that could sacrifice the health of a child.
Dr. Celine Gounder is an infectious disease and public health specialist—also Wahl's wife—who has said women who have formerly contracted Zika can still have healthy babies after the illness.
This means that based on current knowledge of the disease, female athletes could contract the virus at the Olympics, be treated for the illness and still expect to give birth to a healthy child. Gounder recommended women should wait a minimum of "at least one month" to conceive after being cured, but three months was the preferred waiting period.
The report mentioned that the women's soccer matches at Rio 2016 all take place outside of Rio de Janeiro, in cities such as Manaus, Salvador, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo, where the risk of illness is thought to be higher.
Another potential Olympic athlete from the United States, wrestler Adeline Gray, was quoted by the Associated Press and said her intentions could change, depending on her pregnancy plans for the year:
AP Sports @AP_Sports
The Zika virus is on the minds of athletes heading to #Rio2016 https://t.co/EslmJLCXmh https://t.co/PwyhkllMbm2016-2-1 19:28:03
Kipchoge Keino, head of Kenya's Olympic committee, had suggested his nation could consider pulling out of the Olympics if Zika were to reach "epidemic levels," although BBC Sport later reported he may have been quoted out of context.
One thing for certain is Stars and Stripes stopper Solo is far from alone in her fear of a growing virus currently affecting an important venue in the 2016 sports calendar.