Pau Gasol announced that he is willing to play for Spain at the Rio Olympics in a newspaper column on Saturday. He stated that his duty to his country is more important than his worries over the Zika virus.
“My commitment to the national team is greater than my fears over what might happen,” Gasol wrote. “My feelings of passion and responsibility toward my national team, my sport and my teammates are huge. They have always been and always will be. My first instinct in that sense has always been to want to be with the national team each summer.”
In his article, Gasol called upon officials at the Olympics to ensure that the event was safe. The Games will begin in Aug. 5 in the wake of rising gang violence and worries of disease throughout Brazil.
“I will be going hoping and trusting that the people and organizations will do everything possible and take measures to minimize possible risk to the athletes,” Gasol said. “I have always had the doubt that they — so as not to put other elements of the event in danger — have not been mindful of the health and safety of the athletes and all those who will attend the Olympics in Rio — whether those people are athletes, accompanying family, friends or fans. It is a pity that [the situation] is like this. We must trust in the authorities that they will follow up with what they have promised and take proper measures.”
The final Spanish team will be announced by head coach Sergio Scariolo on Monday. Gasol would play his fourth Olympics if he was named to the team, which is an expectation. In addressing his concerns surrounding the Zika virus, Gasol said that he considered freezing his sperm.
“It is a measure of precaution that any doctor would recommend in these uncertain circumstances, just as they would say to use mosquito netting, long sleeves, etc.,” Gasol wrote. “Preventive measures are important. I try to be consistent with what I say and do.”
The virus, which is spread by mosquitos and linked to severe defects in infants with infected mothers, has caused waves of concern throughout the past year in both male and female athletes.
“My feelings are bittersweet because of the situation for the athletes who will attend, but the circumstances are what they are. I am hopeful that the health, local and international authorities and the organizations in charge of these Games are sufficiently consistent and responsible with all of those who are willing to compete for their countries,” Gasol wrote. “As we have seen, there have been more than just a few who have opted not to go, some of them wielding this reason — that of the fear over the Zika virus — while others haven't mentioned it, although there is no doubt that the health situation in Brazil was an indirect factor in their decision.”
In the past years, Gasol led Spain to two back-to-back silver medals, both of which were lost to the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.