Olympic swimmer Michael Andrew defends going maskless and refusing COVID vaccine

Michael Andrew, 22, defended his decision not to wear a face mask behind the scenes at the Tokyo Olympics and for refusing to get the vaccine before the games.

“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,” Andrew said when asked about his decision not to wear a mask.

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Most athletes wear a face mask while being interviewed by the media. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee requires media and workers to wear a face mask at all times. However, the USOPC said Andrew did not violate protocol, because athletes are allowed to remove their masks during interviews in the “mixed zone” where media interviews take place.

“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 USOOC said in a statement.

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Andrew finished fifth in the 200-meter individual medley. He returns Friday night to swim in the 50m free preliminaries.

“I think it’s great that there’s procedures but at the end of the day, all of us here have been under quarantine and in the same testing protocol, so there’s a level of safety that’s comfortable when we’re racing,” he said.

Andrew made headlines for his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccination before the games.

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“As an athlete on the elite level, everything we 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 continued. He has no plan to get vaccinated in the future he added.