The golf superstar from Hollywood, County Down, was due to represent Ireland at the Rio games but he’s just announced going to Brazil was a risk he was “unwilling to take”.
He joins an ever growing list of big name golfers who have withdrawn over fears of contracting the Zika Virus as the return of golf to the Games for the first time since 1904 will be missing some of the worlds best.
His statement, released within the last hour, says:
After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero.
After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realise that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else. 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.
I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me.
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.
Last month McIlroy spoke of his anxiety about the situation in Rio, and said he would be “monitoring” developments.
He said that as the Olympics were getting closer he was “relishing the thought of going down there and competing for gold. But I have been reading a lot of reports about Zika and there have been some articles coming out saying that it might be worse than they are saying. I have to monitor that situation.”
The Olympic Council of Ireland say they are “extremely disappointed” with the news. Their statement regarding the 27 year olds withdrawal read:
As we have always said, it is down to the individual and of course we respect his decision, which he has taken for personal reasons.
Rory was set to be one of the big stars of Rio 2016, but now there is an opportunity for another Irish golfer to take up the chance to become an Olympian and participate in golf’s historic return to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence.
The OCI and our medical team have taken our lead from the IOC on the zika situation, as we do in all matters. They have provided us with every assurance and we have total confidence that the Games will be safe for all athletes.
We are now following the IOC’s recommendations, as well as the recommendations of the Rio 2016 organisers, the World Health Organisation and national health authorities, to ensure that Team Ireland’s athletes are kept fully updated with the latest and best advice and that they are equipped to take all necessary precautions.”
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to causing birth defects and, in adults, has been linked to the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre.