Many athletes are concerned about the threat of the Zika virus in Rio, causing some to back out of the 2016 Summer Olympics, and others to express their concerns publicly – but Pau Gasol may have taken his concerns to a whole other level.
During the presentation of his summer campus in Barcelona on Wednesday, reporters asked Gasol if he will be a part of Spain’s basketball team for the summer games. Gasol said he couldn’t confirm nor deny until Spain announces their selection, but said his major concern was the Zika virus.
“The worries haven’t disappeared and that’s because the risks are real. It’s a big worry,” Gasol told reporters. “A number of sportsmen and women have already decided not to go the Games because, however small the risks might be, they are still there. The situation is serious.”
The situation is so serious, it has the Chicago Bulls Spaniard wondering if he should freeze his sperm as a precaution. “A lot of sportsmen are in their most fertile stage of their lives and so it’s something which requires a great deal of thought,” Gasol said. “It’s not something which should be taken lightly – in Brazil a million and a half have been affected [by Zika].”
You may laugh or roll your eyes at Gasol’s thinking, but he’s not alone. British long jumper Greg Rutherford will be taking part in the Summer Olympics in Rio, but he is taking no chances, freezing a sample of his sperm before heading to Brazil.
In an article published in Standard Issue magazine, Rutherford’s wife Susie Verrill said that the couple would like more children, and they don’t want to put that desire at risk. Even Verrill is taking no chances, deciding to stay home and not go to Rio with her husband.
While the concerns are understandable from both Gasol and Rutherford, none of the players on Brazil’s basketball team – including Leandro Barbosa, Bruno Caboclo, Cristiano Felicio, Marcelo Huertas, Nene, Raul Neto, Lucas Nogueira, Tiago Splitter, and Anderson Varejao – have yet to express similar concerns. U.S. basketball stars like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Stephen Curry decided not to attend the Olympics, but did not cite Zika as their reason for withdrawal.
The World Health Organization declared Zika a global public health emergency, but stated in their latest report that there is a “very low risk” of Zika spreading as a result of the Olympics in Brazil.
Even though the WHO said there is no need to move the Olympics, Gasol said he wouldn’t be opposed to postponing the Games until the threat dies down. The possibility of Gasol freezing his sperm just goes to show two things: participating in the Olympics matters a lot to him, and making sure his future children are healthy matters just as much as his career in athletics.