U.S. swimmer Michael Andrew is biggest Olympic name to reveal they have not received COVID vaccine – USA TODAY

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Michael Andrew, a U.S. swimming star who will compete in multiple events in Tokyo later this month, became the biggest Olympic name yet to reveal that he has not been vaccinated, saying he didn’t want taking the vaccine to interfere with his training schedule.

As an unvaccinated athlete in the midst of a locked-down Olympic Games, Andrew’s status could present problems for the U.S. Olympic team in the event of a COVID-19 scare or contact tracing during the Games. Considerations are expected to be made for vaccinated Olympians in those cases – but not for the unvaccinated. 

At last month’s U.S. Olympic trials, USA Swimming President and CEO Tim Hinchey estimated “around 90 percent” of the U.S. national team had been vaccinated. It’s unknown if any other U.S. Olympic swimmers are unvaccinated. Vaccines are not mandatory at the Olympic Games.

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Andrew, 22, the American record holder in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke who said he contracted COVID months ago, has been training with the U.S. Olympic swimming team in Hawaii and is expected to stay with the team in the Olympic Village in Tokyo.

Both Andrew and his mother have been quoted this year as 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 Thursday night.

“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.” 

He then went on to praise the precautions taken by the swimming national governing body.

“USA Swimming and all of us here have been through very strict protocol with lots of testing, masks, socially distant, staying away from the crowds, everything like that,” he said. “Going into Tokyo, the same thing with testing every day, so we feel very safe and protected knowing that we’re minimizing risk as much as possible, but personally I have not had the vaccine yet and don’t plan on it in the future. We’ll see as things go forward.”

When asked in an earlier media session if there were unvaccinated athletes on the U.S. Olympic swimming team, including whether Andrew had been vaccinated and if he posed a risk to the Olympic team if he were not, U.S. Olympic men’s swimming coach Dave Durden did not answer the question, preferring to discuss how “very conscious and very safe” the athletes, coaches and staff are in training camp, “how we are effectively bubbling ourself through our actions, attitudes and behaviors.”

At the trials last month, Lindsay Mintenko, managing director of the U.S. national team, said Olympic COVID and contact tracing rules were “taking into consideration vaccination status.”

She said: “They aren’t going to automatically disqualify you if you are contact traced at this point (if the athlete in question has been vaccinated.) That was good news for us. I have a lot of concerns going into the next few weeks. The health and safety of our athletes is always our No. 1 priority. It takes on a whole new meaning this year.

“The virus is still here. It’s out there, and we’re going into an environment where we have no idea what the other population has been doing to protect themselves. That makes me nervous. We are going to do a lot to protect ourselves. But I’m nervous about what we’re going to walk into.”

Turns out, one of those who has not protected himself is in their midst.