Amid Zika Concerns, Athletes Are Freezing Sperm Before Heading to Rio Olympics

John Speraw, the coach of the American men's indoor volleyball team, is taking precautions before the 2016 Summer Olympics

Photo: Chris Carlson/AP

Although the World Health Organization announced earlier this week that there is a “very low risk” of further international spread of Zika virus as a result of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer, many are still worried about the possibility of contracting the virus.

In most people, Zika causes flulike symptoms that last just a few days, but, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can also lead to microcephaly – which causes developmental issues – in the babies of infected mothers.

Rather than skipping the Games altogether, as several athletes are already planning, one American is taking a unique precaution to avoid infecting his wife with the mosquito- and sexually-transmitted virus: John Speraw is freezing his sperm.

“My wife and I would like to have another kid. And I’m no spring chicken. I don’t want to get Zika and have to wait an additional year, or whatever it may be, for us to have kids,” the coach of the American men’s indoor volleyball team told the New York Times. “I’m paying attention to Zika and I’m concerned about it. It’s not going to stop me from going down there, but I’m taking measures right now.”

Speraw, whose wife and 7-year-old daughter will not be accompanying him to Rio due to concerns about the disease, added: “I’m doing it because I’m 44. I don’t want to wait and try to have a baby when I’m 46, you know? If we want to try next February, which was our original plan, then at least we can still do that.”

British long jumper Greg Rutherford is also planning on freezing his sperm. In an op-ed in Standard Issue magazine, his wife Susie Verrill explained this precaution and why she was planning on staying home from the Olympics.

“We’ve also made the decision to have Greg’s sperm frozen,” she wrote. “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.”

Verrill continued, “Specialists still also don’t know the ins and outs of Zika, so even though it looks as though there’s no real issues should [1 1/2-year-old son] Milo get bitten, it’s just another thing we don’t want to chance.”

Other athletes are less concerned about the risk of contracting Zika, believing it to be too small to keep them from competing in this year’s games.

“You’ve got to be smart about it and take all the precautions you can, which we will,” April Ross, an American beach volleyball player, told the Times. “And I plan on getting tested when we get back before we start trying to have a baby. If we have to wait, we’re going to wait.”

She added: “In my mind, there’s no point in necessarily worrying about it if there’s nothing you can really do. Take the precautions you can, and forget about it.”

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