An American Olympic swimmer was lambasted by the establishment media for not wearing a mask after a race, even though the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said he hadn’t violated coronavirus protocols.
Michael Andrew chose not to wear a mask on Friday while being interviewed in the mixed zone, an area for journalists to speak with athletes after events, The Associated Press reported.
“No reason. I mean, I’ll throw it on when I’m done here. But, just to speak, it’s difficult,” Andrew said when asked why he wasn’t wearing the mask he carried in his hands, according to Yahoo Sports.
“For me, it’s pretty hard to breathe in after kind of sacrificing my body in the water. … So I feel like my health is a little more tied to being able to breathe than protecting what’s coming out of my mouth.”
He added that he respected the coronavirus protocols and that all athletes have been “under quarantine and under the same testing protocols.”
“So there’s a level of safety I’m comfortable with. When we’re racing, it’s important to get my oxygen.”
Andrew is the first American to decline to wear a mask in the mixed zone, but other Olympic athletes have done so as well, Yahoo reported.
When USA Today asked the USOPC for comment, the committee said it was “reviewing this matter with the National Governing Body and will take action as needed.”
Hours later, the USOPC issued a statement citing the Tokyo Olympic playbook of coronavirus protocols and said athletes are allowed to remove their masks for interviews.
“Michael has been reminded of the Games policy and established COVID mitigation protocols, and has acknowledged the importance of following all guidelines intended to keep athletes and the community safe,” the statement said.
Michael Andrew, the highest profile unvaccinated American Olympian, refused to wear a mask in the mixed zone. Every other US swimmer I’ve seen all week has worn one. pic.twitter.com/xwVFJGpkmL
— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) July 30, 2021
Andrew has already come under scrutiny for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“My reason behind it is, for one, it was kind of a last moment. I didn’t want to put anything in my body that I didn’t know how I would potentially react to,” Andrew said at an Olympic training camp earlier this month.
“As an athlete on the elite level, everything we do is very calculated and understood. For me, in the training cycle, especially leading up to trials, I didn’t want to risk any days out. There were periods where you take a vaccine, you have to deal with some days off.”
Andrew said he contracted COVID-19 months ago and has no plans to be vaccinated in the future.
The 22-year-old swimmer finished fifth in the 200-meter individual medley and will return to the pool on Friday night to compete in the 50-meter freestyle preliminaries.
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