Olympic swimmer who lived in Lawrence skips mask ... but officials OK it. Here’s why

·2 min read

He didn’t medal in the first two of three events in which he’s participating at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, U.S. swimmer and former Lawrence, Kansas resident Michael Andrew has garnered headlines for different reasons.

He’s believed to be the highest-profile unvaccinated American at the Games. And he did not wear a mask while speaking to reporters following his fifth-place finish in the 200-meter individual medley final late Thursday night.

Christine Brennan of USA Today reported early Friday morning Central Time that Andrew was the first U.S. swimmer to not wear a mask in such a setting.

When asked why he wasn’t wearing a mask around others despite the fact that his teammates had done so throughout the week, Andrew had this to say:

“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.”

Reporters and workers at the Games are required to wear face coverings at the Tokyo Aquatics Center, where the swimming events are held.

Same applies to athletes post-competition, when not in the “mixed zone” where they meet with reporters to do interviews. The Japanese government declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and other surrounding areas earlier this month, extending the order to Aug. 31 Friday morning following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said that after talking with Andrew and reviewing the Games Playbook, he was not found to be in violation of the Tokyo organizing committee’s policy.

“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 USOPC said in a statement.

The 22-year-old Andrew moved to Lawrence with his family in 2011 to live and train, but has since moved away from the area. Andrew has stated he isn’t vaccinated and doesn’t plan to be, saying he doesn’t know how his body “would potentially react” to the shot.

Andrew has one event remaining in Tokyo: the 50 freestyle. He finished his preliminary heats Friday morning in 11th place overall with a time of 21.89.

That qualified him for Friday night’s semifinal round, which is set for at 9:11 p.m. on NBC.

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