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McIlroy opts out of Rio Olympics over Zika

Associated Press Associated Press 22/06/2016

World No.4 golfer Rory McIlroy has opted out of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of concerns about the Zika virus, saying it is a risk he is unwilling to take.

"After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realise that my health and my family's health comes before anything else," the four-time major winner said on Wednesday in a statement released by his management company.

McIlroy was scheduled to play for Ireland in golf's return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

The Olympic Committee of Ireland (OCI) said it was extremely disappointed not to have McIlroy on its team.

"However, 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," the OCI said in a statement.

The 27-year-old McIlroy said this month he and fiancee Erica Stoll might consider starting a family "in the next couple of years."

"Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low," McIlroy said, "it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take."

Australian golfer Marc Leishman had already pulled out of the Olympic tournament, citing concerns over the health of his family because of the mosquito-borne virus which is linked to severe birth defects and possible neurological problems in adults. Leishman's wife Audrey nearly died last year of toxic shock syndrome.

Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh have also said they won't compete at Rio, mostly due to scheduling commitments.

Last month, 150 health experts issued an open letter to the UN health agency calling for the Games to be delayed or relocated "in the name of public health". The World Health Organization responded that such steps would "not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus".

The OCI said it had been taking its lead on the Zika situation from the International Olympic Committee.

"They have provided us with every assurance and we have total confidence that the Games will be safe for all athletes," the Dublin-based organisation said.

McIlroy, who has won three of the four majors in golf, had been eligible to compete for Britain or Ireland at the Olympics. He eventually chose Ireland, which he had represented throughout his amateur career and twice in the World Cup.

"I trust the Irish people will understand my decision," McIlroy said. "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."

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