Golf waited 112 years to make it back to the Olympics. With Rory McIlroy suggesting the Zika virus may keep him from making the trip to Rio to compete in the summer games, it can surely wait another four.
McIlroy, following Sunday’s Irish Open victory, conceded that what experts are predicting could be a "full-blown global health disaster" due to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil have him "monitoring" the risks associated with the epidemic. The winner of four major championships has been looking forward to representing Ireland in Rio, but his engagement to Erica Stoll, in light of a quickly spreading virus with links to birth defects and other diseases, has him reassessing his position.
"There’s going to be a point in time over the next couple of years where we’re going to have to start thinking about starting a family," McIlroy told the BBC on Monday. "Right now I’m ready to go but I don’t want anything to affect that."
Apparently Rory McIlroy may miss the Olympics due to the Zika virus. I wish the whole of golf would.— Mark Staniforth (@markstani1) May 23, 2016
McIlroy continued to relish the notion of "going down there and competing for an Olympic medal," but said he was concerned about what he was learning about the virus.
"I have been reading a lot of reports about Zika and there have been some articles that have come out saying that it might be worse than they are saying," he noted. "So, I have to monitor that situation."
Recent alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and other health authorities make it clear that Rio in August is not the place to be for golfers, other athletes, spectators, or anyone who has a choice in the matter. Pregnant women and newborns have been most publicly connected to Zika, but scientists have uncovered connections between the virus and brain and autoimmune disorders in adults like acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome. In addition, men can carry and transmit the mosquito-borne illness to their sexual partners.
Such potentially catastrophic health issues have caused some public health experts to advocate delaying, moving, or canceling the games altogether. But with the games just three months away, there is no way the International Olympic Committee will change its plans, which places the onus on athletes and fans to take whatever precautions they can.
Rory McIlroy and others in a ridiculous position re Zika and Olympics. Should be clear and regular direction from IOC.— Ewan Murray (@mrewanmurray) May 23, 2016
For U.S. women’s soccer team goalie Hope Solo, that means going to Rio "begrudgingly" and perhaps not leaving her hotel room but for practice, according to CNBC. Alena Sharp, a Canadian golfer with Olympic hopes, was far more certain about her choice.
"I don’t plan on having any kids," Sharp told Yahoo! Canada. "That’s not part of my life plan. I’m not too concerned about it. If I did get bit by a mosquito that had it, I would think, we will have the medicine to treat it."
Sharp’s is a rather cavalier reaction to such a serious threat and one that McIlroy may choose not to adopt. Indeed, he acknowledged he may eventually opt out of the games -- a decision that Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Marc Leishman have already made.
"I mean, yeah," he said. "I am actually going to get my injections on Wednesday. At least I will be immunized for whatever, if I do get bitten by a mosquito down there."
Except there is no vaccine or medical treatment for Zika, a predicament that may mean a Rory-free Olympics.