Opinion: With nearly 100 Olympians unvaccinated, too many Americans are terrible teammates and guests

·3 min read

TOKYO — Michael Andrew is not alone.

It turns out the unvaccinated American swimmer alarmingly is one of nearly 100 U.S. athletes at the Summer Olympic Games who came to Japan without bothering to get themselves vaccinated.

Only 83% of the U.S. Olympic team is vaccinated, Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, chief medical officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said in response to a question from USA TODAY Sports at a USOPC news conference Friday afternoon. He said that information came from each athlete’s health history form. A total of 567 U.S. athletes have turned in their forms. There are 613 American Olympians.

That means there are almost 100 American athletes at these Games who failed to protect themselves with the COVID-19 vaccine. Almost 100 American athletes who are flying blind into Japan’s state of emergency for what could be their only opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games.

How foolish of them. How selfish. How ill-informed.

By not getting vaccinated, they have shown themselves to be terrible teammates, potentially endangering their fellow athletes because they are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and potentially knocking themselves and others out of their events through contact tracing protocols.

The Tokyo Olympics officially start on Friday amid continuing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Games.
The Tokyo Olympics officially start on Friday amid continuing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Games.

By not getting vaccinated, they have also shown themselves to be horrible guests, potentially endangering their Japanese hosts because they are a far greater risk of bringing COVID into the largely unvaccinated Japanese population than vaccinated Americans are.

By not getting vaccinated, they have proven to be awful ambassadors for their nation, showing their contempt for science, for their fellow Americans with whom they are training, eating and rooming, and for the host nation that is still struggling with getting its people vaccinated.

The unvaccinated U.S. Olympians had months to get their shot(s). Whether they knew they had qualified for the Olympics months ago, or just made it in the past few weeks, they were well aware that Japan awaited. They knew they were heading into a country with a dangerously low vaccination rate. They knew they would be tested for COVID day after day, time and time again — with their Olympic events on the line every time.

And they still made the awful choice not to get vaccinated.

Andrew, the 22-year-old American record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke who will swim multiple events in Tokyo, became the biggest Olympic name to reveal that he has not been vaccinated when he said two weeks ago that he didn’t want taking the vaccine to interfere with his training schedule.

Andrew, who said he contracted COVID months ago, was quoted earlier this year saying he was not vaccinated and would not be, but he had not confirmed his status since making the Olympic team until he responded to a question from USA TODAY Sports during a USA Swimming media Zoom call July 8.

“I am not fully vaccinated, I’m not vaccinated,” he said. “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.

“As an athlete on the elite level, everything you 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.”

All of Team USA’s vaccinated athletes happily made that sacrifice. They are the U.S. Olympic team’s true role models, true leaders, true heroes. Shame on the others for failing so miserably to be their equals.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 Olympics: Only 83% of U.S. athletes have come to Tokyo vaccinated

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