By Sarah Begley
June 22, 2016

Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy will skip the 2016 Olympics in Rio over his concerns about the Zika virus.

In a statement posted on Wednesday, McIlroy wrote that he had decided to withdraw his name from consideration. “After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realize that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else. 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.”

This summer marks the return of golf to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years. McIlroy, who was to represent Ireland rather than the U.K., said he trusts “the Irish people will understand my decision.” In a statement of its own, the Olympic Council of Ireland wrote it was “extremely disappointed” not to have him on the team, but that it respected his decision.

While the International Olympic Committee has said Zika does not pose a serious enough risk to move the games, experts have advised athletes to practice safe sex after visiting the region, as the virus can be sexually transmitted. Zika in pregnant women has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, which causes children to be born with abnormally small heads.

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