One of the many concerns surrounding this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that is prevalent in Brazil. Because the virus can be transferred to sexual partners and is believed to cause severe birth defects in babies, several Olympic athletes are considering freezing their semen before heading over to Rio.
Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol hasn’t yet decided if he will play for Spain at the Games, but if he elects to participate, he says he may also choose to freeze his sperm. The 35-year-old Gasol, who considered a career in the medical field prior to the whole basketball thing working out, is clearly taking the threat seriously.
“We are constantly learning more but there is uncertainty about how long the virus remains in one’s blood,” Gasol said earlier this week in an appearance for the Pau Gasol Academy. “Many athletes are thinking about starting families and in Brazil there are a million and a half people affected [by Zika]. If I confirm that I will play for the national team, freezing my sperm is one measure more to take.”
“It is tough to say whether I am closer or farther away from playing in the Olympics because every day new information comes out. The worry about Zika continues,” Gasol said. “The reality continues to be worrisome and there have been several NBA players who have decided not to play in Rio. It could be that the risk is slight but it is still there. This is something that doesn’t just worry me, but also my teammates and the rest of the delegation.
“We can’t take this health threat lightly. It doesn’t just affect pregnant women. A few days ago, the World Health Organization doubled the precautionary period for having sexual relations — from four to eight weeks. Who knows whether they will soon change it to 12? It is a serious subject.”
Not being able to have sex for around three months? It’s no wonder that so many players are taking a hard pass on participating in this year’s Games.
For Gasol, it’s clear that he’s worried his playing in Brazil may potentially affect his ability to start a family down the road (he doesn’t have any children currently) and he’s taking his time to weigh all of his options. As well as he should; some things are just bigger than basketball.