US cyclist withdraws from Olympics citing Zika concern

Tejay Van Garderen has a pregnant wife at home and was not willing to take the risk.

FILE: Aedes aegypti mosquitos are photographed in a laboratory at the University of El Salvador, in San Salvador, on 3 February 2016. Picture: AFP/Marvin Recinos.

CAPE TOWN - US cyclist Tejay Van Garderen withdrew his name from consideration for the USA road cycling team yesterday citing the Zika virus, Van Garderen has a pregnant wife at home and was bnot willing to take the risk.

The mosquito-borne illness responsible for causing birth defects where the baby's brain does not develop properly. This makes Van Garderen the first US athlete to withdraw from the Rio Olympics set for the 5 August later this year.

In an email to Associated Press , Van Garderen said "I don't want to risk bringing anything back that could potentially have an effect," he went onto say "If the circumstances were different I would have loved to be selected again to represent the USA, but my family takes priority and it's a decision I'm completely comfortable with."

Van Garderen took part in the London 2012 Olympic Games and was set to land on of the two spots for the US team in the road race at the Rio Games.

USA Cycling spokesman Kevin Loughery said van Garderen is the only rider to back out of consideration for the US cycling team.

Organising committee chief Carlos Nuzman says, "This is no public health risk" that would warrant postponing or moving the games while Usain Bolt, Rafael Nadal and members of the US basketball team had no reservations about participating in the Games.

However, there been a handful of athletes who have expressed concern including Hope Solo (US soccer player) and tennis star Serena Williams

Rio spokesman Mario Andrada said zero cases of Zika were recorded during 44 test events involving 7,000 athletes and 8,000 volunteers.