EUGENE, Ore. – Sprint hurdler Aries Merritt said on Wednesday that he plans to compete at next month’s Olympics despite being warned by doctors.
Merritt, the 2012 London Olympic 110 metres hurdles champion, remarkably made a swift comeback from a kidney transplant done last September, and the American is determined to defend his title at Rio 2016.
However, the world record holder, who won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Beijing last year, four days prior to having surgery – has been advised by doctors to think twice about making the trip to Brazil.
They fear that his weakened immune system from a kidney transplant could leave him sensitive to the Zika virus.
“They are really concerned about the whole Zika thing because I am immune suppressed so I am susceptible to infection a lot more easier than other people,” Merritt was quoted as saying in an AFP report, when asked about his doctors’ concerns.
“They are very, very concerned. They have asked many times ‘Have you considered not going?’ and I said, ‘Well that’s not an option – if I make it I’m going.’ It troubles them a lot. It does.”
If he makes the U.S. Olympic Games Team, Merritt plans to take every precaution, which includes wearing clothing with long sleeves, but he thinks the risks from Zika virus are being overblown.
“We have Zika here in America and if I haven’t gotten it yet I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said.
“Whenever you go to any major sporting event, whether it’s an Olympic Games or a Super Bowl, there’s always some controversy,” he said.
“With London, it was like ‘Oh they’re not going to be ready, they don’t have the staff.’
“And then London was the best Olympic games ever. I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”