Hope Solo is concerned enough about the Zika virus that she might skip the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
A two-time Olympic gold-medal winning goalkeeper for United States, Solo told Sports Illustrated: “If I had to make the choice today, I wouldn’t go.”
Solo cited worries about how being exposed to Zika might affect future pregnancies.
Though the link has not been scientifically proven, Zika has been connected to a spike in microcephaly, a birth defect that involves abnormal brain and cranial development in infants.
Olympic organisers said only pregnant women should be concerned about exposure during the Games at a news conference last week, but that was no reassurance to Solo.
“I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child,” she said. “I don’t know when that day will come for [husband Jerramy Stevens] and me, but I personally reserve my right to have a healthy baby.
“No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma. Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professional athletes don’t.
“We accept these particular choices as part of being a woman, but I do not accept being forced into making the decision between competing for my country and sacrificing the potential health of a child, or staying home and giving up my dreams and goals as an athlete.
“Competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike.”
Her comments came the same day the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) denied a report it had advised sports federations last month to tell athletes to stay home if they were not comfortable with potential health risks in Brazil.
“The reports that the USOC has advised U.S. athletes to reconsider competing in Rio due to the Zika virus are 100 percent inaccurate,” a statement from spokesman Patrick Sandusky read.
“Team USA looks forward to the Games and we did not, would not and will not prevent athletes from competing for their country should they qualify.”