Rory McIlroy Pulls Out of Rio Olympics as First Zika Vaccine Gets Clearance

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

Superstar golfer Rory McIlroy has decided not to unleash his club and balls on the Rio Olympics this summer, due to fears over the Zika virus. Don’t worry too much though. The four-time major champion was due to represent Ireland at the games, so Team GB haven’t lost a potential medal winner.

"Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take," said McIlroy, adding that health comes first. "I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. 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."

Fellow golfers Vijay Singh and Marc Leishman have already withdrawn from the Olympics for the same reason, while Team GB long-jumper Greg Rutherford has frozen his sperm as a precaution.

The Zika virus has been linked to a rise in serious birth defects, with thousands more babies than usual born with skull and brain deformations since last October. The worry for potential parents is that not all Zika infections result in symptoms being displayed in adults.

McIlroy’s announcement comes shortly after the first potential vaccine for the Zika virus received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. Ionia Pharmaceuticals is set to start trialling the vaccine, which should prepare the immune system for Zika by introducing genetically-engineered material that mimics the virus into the body, on people in the coming weeks. [BBC, CNN]

Image: Tom Frohnhofer via Flickr