Unvaccinated U.S. Swimmer Goes Maskless During Olympic Interviews. Officials Allow It
Michael Andrew is making waves for not wearing a mask while speaking to journalists after swimming the 200-meter individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan shared a photo on Twitter of Andrew maskless in an area where interviewers speak with Olympic athletes.
"Michael Andrew, the highest-profile unvaccinated American Olympian, refused to wear a mask in the mixed zone," Brennan tweeted. "Every other US swimmer I've seen all week has worn one."
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee first said that Andrew violated COVID-19 protocols by not wearing a mask at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Brennan reported in USA Today.
Hours later, the committee backpedaled on its comment, saying Andrew was reminded of COVID-19 protocols and is allowed to be maskless during mixed-zone interviews.
When asked why he was not wearing a mask, Andrew said it affected his breathing.
"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 said.
He finished fifth in the men's 200-meter medley Friday in a race won by China's Wang Shun. Andrew broke the U.S. record in the men's 100-meter breaststroke during the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in June. But he has failed to place and win a medal in his last two events in Tokyo.
"I think it's great that there's procedures, but at the end of the day, all of us here have been under quarantine and in the same testing protocol, so there's a level of safety that's comfortable when we're racing, '' Andrew said.
The 22-year-old made headlines earlier this month when he confirmed his unvaccinated status to a reporter.
"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 it," Andrew said during a virtual media conference.
"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.
Andrew has said he had contracted COVID-19 months ago and has no plans to be vaccinated.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.