Chicago Bulls and Spain basketball centre Pau Gasol wants clarity on the Zika outbreak in Brazil before deciding whether to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Gasol, who has represented his country at the last three Games, says there is not enough information about the outbreak of the virus that is linked to serious birth defects.

“I feel a responsibility to raise awareness and inform about something that we are not talking enough about and which is a big unknown,” the 35-year-old told a news conference on Monday.

“The Olympics can be an opportunity for this virus to spread. I want the health of sportsmen, fans and their families that will travel to Rio to come first.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if certain athletes decided not to take part in order not to put at risk their health and that of their families.”

Asked if he was among them, Gasol said: “I am evaluating it like any other athlete or person that is considering going to Rio.

“Some of my team mates are looking to start a family in the near future and they cannot risk the health of their future children or wives.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) rejected a call on Saturday to move or postpone the Olympics over the outbreak after more than 100 leading scientists said new findings about Zika made it unethical for the Games to go ahead.

“It’s a very serious situation and there is a lack of knowledge even among the experts,” Gasol said.

“The national Olympic committees and world health organisations need to give information that is 100 percent and with the biggest clarity possible.”

The WHO’s advice is that pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika virus transmission and also advises everyone to make all efforts to protect against mosquito bites and to practice safe sex.

Zika infection in pregnant women has been shown to be a cause of the birth defect microcephaly and other serious brain abnormalities in babies.

The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last year in Brazil which has confirmed more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly.

© Reuters


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