By Christophe Ena
Some big-name athletes have been raising concerns over the Zika virus in recent days ahead of the Rio de Janiero Games.
From tennis stars Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic to golfer Rory McIlroy and NBA player Pau Gasol, it’s obviously been on their minds.
The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and has been linked to microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with undersized brains and skulls. There are also concerns that it might contribute to the Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults, a condition that leads to rapid muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system.
Brazilian officials insist that precautions will be taken to keep athletes safe and point to the onset of winter in Brazil as being helpful in reducing the mosquito population. But it’s not exactly easing concerns altogether.
_McIlroy,a four-time major winner, said he’s studying the virus and has concerns since he and fiancee Erica Stoll may consider starting a family “in the next couple of years.”
“Right now, I’m ready to go, but I don’t want anything to affect that,” he said.
Australian golfer Marc Leishman has already pulled out of the Olympic tournament, citing concerns over the health of his family because of the Zika virus. Leishman's wife, Audrey, nearly died last year from toxic shock syndrome.
By Brandon Dill
_Chicago Bulls player Pau Gasol of Spain is considering not playing at the Olympics. He says other Spanish athletes have also expressed concerns and might skip the games.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see some athletes deciding not to participate in the games to avoid putting their health and the health of their families at risk," Gasol said.
"I'm thinking about (whether to go)," he said. "Just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it."
_ No. 1 women’s tennis player Serena Williams says Zika has “been on my mind” and she will have to go to Rio “super-protected, maybe.”
By David Vincent
_Sure, top-ranked men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic says canceling the Olympics would be “unthinkable.” As for his own plans, he intends to compete “for the moment.”
“Honestly, I don’t know what to think any more.”
Detroit Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez understands the concerns over Zika. He contracted the virus over the offseason in his home country of Venezuela. He told ESPN.com that he wouldn’t blame athletes if they choose to skip the Olympics. And, he said, “if they have plans to have kids in the future, you’ve got to think about it.”