Golfer Rory McIlroy has pulled out of the Olympic Games in Rio, saying that he is unwilling to take the risk of contracting the Zika virus.
Golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years, but Ireland’s highest-profile golfer says he will not be travelling to Brazil to make his debut.
In a statement, McIlory said, “After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.”
He added that “my health and my family’s health comes before anything else”, and that the risk of infection from the Zika virus is “a risk I am unwilling to take.”
The risk of infection has dropped in recent months, although other athletes have voiced their fears over the virus. Fellow golfers Vikay Singh and Marc Leishman have already pulled out because of Zika.
Long jumper Greg Rutherford meanwhile has taken the precaution of freezing his sperm ahead of the Games – Zika in pregnant women has been linked to birth defects.
The Olympic Council of Ireland said it was “extremely disappointed” not to be taking McIlroy to Rio, adding, “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.”
McIlory added, “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.”