The wife of the Olympic gold-medal winning long jumper, Susie Verill, told Standard Issue magazine that the couple made the decision as a precaution as they plan to have more children in the future, and also to protect their young son, Milo. Verill and her son will not be accompanying Rutherford to the games.
'The Zika news has caused no end of concern if we're totally honest,' she wrote. 'We're not ones to worry unnecessarily but after more than 100 medical experts stressed the Games should be moved to prevent the disease from spreading, this was a huge factor in us choosing to stay put.'
Last month a group of 150 medical experts wrote an open letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO) calling for the Olympic games to be moved or postponed because of the risk of spreading the disease around the world.
The Zika virus has been linked to babies being born with microcephaly – a condition that results in an abnormally small skull and other brain defects. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes but can also be passed on through sperm from an infected man (see BioNews 840).
'We've also made the decision to have Greg's sperm frozen. We'd love to have more children and with research in its infancy, I wouldn't want to put myself in a situation which could have been prevented,' wrote Verill.
US cyclist Tejay Van Garderen has also pulled out of the games over fears for his pregnant wife. Vijay Singh and Marc Leishman have withdrawn from the golf event.
Brazil's sports minister Leonardo Picciani has dismissed concerns over holding the games in Rio in August. 'We hosted 43 test events in Rio with 7000 athletes and we have not had any case of Zika or dengue [fever]. We had a very significant reduction. We had 4300 cases in April, which fell to 700 in May and there will be another significant reduction in June or July, and in August it will be very close to zero,' he told the Guardian.
'All the mechanisms of prevention and protection are guaranteed. I would say to any athlete, to any visitor planning on coming to Rio, you do not have to worry, Rio and Brazil have prepared for this moment.'