Olympics: Spain’s Gasol heading to Rio despite Zika fear

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MADRID: Spanish basketball star Pau Gasol will go to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, he announced in comments published Saturday, after considering skipping the Games due to fears over the Zika virus.

“My responsibility was to alert people on Zika as it’s a serious issue, and my responsibility is also to be with the national team in Rio,” he wrote in his column in Spanish sports daily Marca. “I want to go, I want to be with the team, I want to achieve my fourth Olympic Games.”

Gasol, who started studying medicine at the University of Barcelona before dropping out to become a professional basketball player and whose mother is a doctor, had previously questioned whether health authorities were providing adequate information about the virus.

The 35-year-old, who helped Spain win the silver medal at both the 2008 and 2012 Games, wrote Saturday that he was still not fully convinced.


“My commitment to the team is bigger than the fear of what may happen,” he said. “There is still disinformation and uncertainty. I hope that in the coming month-and-a-bit that remains before the start of the competition, there won’t be news of sufficient gravity that could make us rethink this decision.”

Several athletes — including top golfer Rory McIlroy — have pulled out of the Olympics due to Zika, which causes birth defects including a syndrome known as microcephaly in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains.

The virus has also been linked to rare adult-onset neurological problems such as the Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can result in paralysis and death.

Other athletes like Gasol have said they plan to freeze their sperm before they go.

About 1.5 million people have been infected with Zika in Brazil in an outbreak that started last year, out of a global total of some two million, and more than 1,600 babies born with abnormally small heads and brains. AFP

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