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Rory McIlroy to skip Olympics over Zika virus concerns

Rory McIlroy plays at the Masters on April 8.
(Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images)
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Rory McIlroy has become the latest pro golfer to skip the 2016 Olympic Games, citing concerns about the Zika virus outbreak.

McIlroy issued a statement Wednesday saying that he has changed his mind about representing Ireland this summer.

“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realize that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else,” he stated. “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.”

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Brazil has been particularly hard hit by the mosquito-borne illness, which has been linked to neurological disorders and, in cases where pregnant women become infected, birth defects.

The World Health Organization believes risks associated with attending the Games in Rio de Janeiro are low because the mosquito population is expected to decrease during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.

But a group of 150 doctors, researchers and scientists recently called for the Olympics to be postponed or moved.

McIlroy now joins fellow players such as Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh in withdrawing from consideration for their national teams.

The Olympic Council of Ireland reacted quickly to his announcement.

“The OCI is extremely disappointed not to be taking Rory with us to Rio,” officials stated. “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.”

Zika isn’t the only problem facing golf’s return to the Olympics after decades away. Many have complained that the Games add to an already busy summer schedule on the professional tours.

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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