Sports

Zika threatens Olympics: US athletes told appearing is up to them

American athletes told it is up to them if they want to compete at the Rio Olympics

The fallout from the spread of the Zika virus in Brazil is threatening the Summer Olympics.

The latest to make an announcement on their athletes' participation are the United States.

The US Olympic Committee (USOC) told its sports federations that athletes and staff concerned for their health over the Zika virus should consider not going to Rio 2016 in August.

The message was delivered in a conference call involving USOC officials and leaders of US sport federations in late January, according to two people who participated in the call.

Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil "if they don't feel comfortable going. Bottom line," said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.

The USOC's briefing to sport federations is the latest sign that Olympics officials are taking the Zika threat to the Games in Rio de Janeiro seriously, and acknowledging that at least some athletes and support staff could face a tough decision over whether to attend.

The US won most medals at the last Olympics in London in 2012, so any disruption to their presence could hurt the Games.

Global health authorities suspect the mosquito-borne Zika virus has caused a spike in Brazil of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

As a result, the World Health Organisation declared an international health emergency on Feb. 1, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising pregnant women or those considering becoming pregnant to avoid travel to places with Zika outbreaks.

Lik the US, sports authorities across the world are scrambling to find out more about the spread of the virus in Brazil as they make plans for the Games.

Below are the updates:

AUSTRALIA

  • The Olympic committee said no athletes have indicated they intended to withdraw, but it would "totally understand" if they did.

BRITAIN

  • British Olympic Association chairman Lord Sebastian Coe said none of the country's athletes were reluctant to go.

But British rower Andrew Triggs Hodge said his wife Eeke would not accompany him because of the "very real and frightening threat" posed by Zika.

JAPAN

  • Their Olympic committee chairman Tsunekazu Takeda said no athletes were thinking of "boycotting the Olympics".

KENYA

  • The African nation threatened to pull their elite runners and other athletes out of the Olympics unless they got assurances they would not be exposed.

"Obviously, we are not going to risk taking Kenyans there if this Zika virus reaches epidemic levels," said the head of their Olympics committee, Kipchoge Keino, himself a Kenyan running great.

NEW ZEALAND

  • The Olympic committee issued a warning to its athletes and officials of the risks.

Any competitors who decide to opt out would receive the committee's "absolute support", a spokeswoman said.

SINGAPORE

  • A recent press statement by Low Teo Ping, Team Singapore's chef de mission for the Games, read: "The SNOC has received an advisory from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regarding the Zika virus. We are monitoring the situation and developments closely with the IOC and the relevant local authorities and will remain guided by them." - Reuters.
Zika Virus2016 Rio Olympicsathleticsbrazilepidemic