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Basketball great Pau Gasol could skip Rio over Zika fears

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Basketball great Pau Gasol could skip Rio over Zika fears
Pau Gasol said he might not go to the Olympic Games in Rio. Photo: AFP
08:19 CEST+02:00
Spanish basketball star Pau Gasol said on Monday he is considering skipping the Olympic Games in Brazil in August due to fears over the Zika virus.

"I'm considering it, like anyone. I think it is a sufficiently important issue that it should be considered," the Chicago Bulls player told reporters at an event for one of his sponsors in Madrid.

"I hope that national Olympic committees and international health organisations provide real information regarding the situation in Brazil so athletes can take informed decisions," he added.

"We will see what happens, but we need to put the health of athletes, families and fans that will travel to Brazil first."

Gasol, whose mother is a doctor and who started studying medicine at the University of Barcelona before dropping out to become a professional basketball player, said he has been trying to gather as much information as possible about the virus.

In an opinion article published in top-selling Spanish newspaper El Pais earlier on Monday Gasol questioned whether health authorities were providing adequate information about the virus.

The 35-year-old recalled that Australian golfer Marc Leishman pulled out of the Rio Olympics last week over fears about the virus and he said he would not be surprised if other athletes did the same.

Northern Ireland golf star Rory McIlroy has also expressed his concern, saying last week he could reject the chance to play in Rio because of the Zika virus.

"We have to take decisions and measures to ensure that the Olympic dream does not become a health nightmare," wrote Gasol, who helped Spain win the silver medal at both the 2008 and 2012 Games.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday ruled out any change in the timing or the location of the Olympic Games, shunning a call by doctors and scientists to shift the event over the Zika virus.

Zika can cause birth defects, including a devastating syndrome known as microcephaly in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains.

Nearly 1,300 babies have been born in Brazil with the irreversible defect since the mosquito-borne Zika began circulating there last year.

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