Hope Solo thinks all athletes should have a safe Olympic environment
The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro don't begin until August, but if U.S. national team goalkeeper Hope Solo had to decide today, she would skip the event over fear of the Zika virus.
"If I had to make the choice today, I wouldn't go," Solo said, according to SI.com.
"I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child," she said, according to the website. "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."
The mosquito-borne Zika virus is spreading rapidly through Latin America. While most people experience either mild or no symptoms, Zika is suspected of causing a devastating birth defect, babies born with abnormally small heads. Pregnant Americans are urged to avoid travel to affected areas, and nations are discussing options ahead of the Olympics.
"No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma," Solo said, according to SI.com. "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. Female athletes should not be forced to make a decision that could sacrifice the health of a child."
Solo reiterated those comments following the U.S. team's 5-0 victory over Costa Rica on Wednesday night to open the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
"All I can do is speak for myself,'' she said. "If the Olympics were today, I would not go. Fortunately, the Olympics are six months away. So, I believe we have some time to get our doubts and questions answered."
The U.S. women's national soccer team was set to be briefed Tuesday night on the Zika crisis. Coach Jill Ellis said at a news conference that there have been "constant conversations behind the scenes'' about the virus.
"I think at this point the focus is certainly we want to not distract from the performance piece," Ellis said. "We haven't qualified, so talking about Rio right now for me is not something that's in my scope. But I think we're certainly sensitive to the fact that this has become a global issue."
Rio organizers have tried to calm fears that the Olympics might be affected, maintaining that the games will not be canceled. The Olympics will also be held in Brazil's winter, when colder temperatures should reduce the mosquito population.
"We're focused on qualifying, so we don't really have Rio in our sights yet until the end of this month, hopefully," U.S. forward Alex Morgan said. "But Zika virus is a scary thing that is very unknown for a lot of people, especially on the side of pregnant women who might want to get pregnant in the following years after the Olympics."
The International Olympic Committee has expressed confidence in measures being taken against the virus in Brazil and is following the advice of the World Health Organization. The IOC has distributed the guidance to all national Olympic committees.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.