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U.S. swimmer Michael Andrew on why he will go to Tokyo without coronavirus vaccine

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 7/9/2021 Dave Sheinin

Team USA swimmer Michael Andrew confirmed Thursday that he remains unvaccinated for the coronavirus ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, reaffirming a stance he and his family made clear at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials last month and probably subjecting himself and U.S. officials to further uncomfortable questions when the Games begin in two weeks.

Andrew, 22, said during a remote media availability from the U.S. swim team’s training camp in Hawaii that he chose not to get vaccinated in the month between the trials and the Olympics, explaining: “It was kind of a last moment. I didn’t want to put anything in my body that I didn’t know how I would potentially react to. As an athlete on the elite level, everything we do is very calculated. … I didn’t want to risk any days out, because there are periods where, if you take the vaccine, you have to deal with some days off.”

Dave Durden, the men’s coach for the U.S. swimming team, deflected a question about Andrew’s vaccination status, saying: “All of our athletes, in the community that we’re in right now, we’re being very conscious, being very safe with how we’re handling our teams, how we’re going from place to place, how we’re operating in our training camp environment, how we are effectively bubbling ourselves. … And that’s probably the more important piece of this. Regardless of vaccinations or not vaccinated, it’s what our attitudes and actions are.”

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Andrew’s comments came on the same day Japan declared a new state of emergency in the wake of rising coronavirus cases, forcing the decision to stage the Olympics almost entirely without spectators.

Andrew is poised to be one of the stars of the U.S. team in Tokyo, having qualified in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter breaststroke and 200-meter individual medley, tied with Caeleb Dressel for the most individual events among U.S. men. He is considered a gold medal favorite in the 200 IM.

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However, the unconventional background and training methods of his family — Andrew turned pro at 14, and his parents, Peter and Tina, serve as his coach and business manager, respectively — have subjected the Andrews to widespread criticism within the sport.

Tina Andrew first revealed her son’s insistence on remaining unvaccinated for Tokyo, telling The Washington Post during the Olympic trials in Omaha, “He will do everything that is required, but he won’t take the vaccine.” Earlier in the year, Michael Andrew expressed personal doubts about vaccines, saying on a swimming podcast, “Just because everyone’s heading in one direction, why do we have to follow that direction?”

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A USA Swimming spokesperson told The Post that the organization could not mandate vaccines for its athletes, because the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the IOC have not mandated them, but that unvaccinated athletes and coaches — Peter Andrew is an assistant for the U.S. team — would be subject to enhanced health-and-safety protocols during the training camp in Hawaii and the Olympics in Tokyo.

“All of us here have been through very strict protocols, with lots of testing, masks, socially distant, staying away from crowds — everything like that,” Michael Andrew said Thursday. “Going into Tokyo, the same thing, with testing every day. So we feel very safe and protected, knowing that we’re minimizing risk as much as possible. But personally, I have not had the vaccine yet and don’t plan on it in the distant future.”

As Andrew spoke, he sat a few feet from fellow Team USA Olympian Chase Kalisz, both of them unmasked.

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