U.S. Olympic swimming star Michael Andrew confirmed that he has not and will not receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Andrew, 22, reaffirmed his stance on getting vaccinated during remote media availability on Thursday from the U.S. Olympic swimming team’s training camp in Hawaii.
“I am not fully vaccinated, I’m not vaccinated,” Andrew told media via Zoom. “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.”
Andrew is coming off a very successful U.S. Olympic Trials, qualifying to swim three individual events in Tokyo having won the men’s 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley in Omaha and placing second to Caeleb Dressel in the 50 freestyle.
Andrew’s decision not to receive the vaccine could potentially put both him and his U.S. Olympic teammates in a precarious position at the Games—if a positive test were to arise, an unvaccinated athlete will face stricter quarantine consequences compared to those who have had the vaccine.
When asked about Andrew’s vaccination status, men’s U.S. Olympic head coach Dave Durden said: “All of our athletes, in the community that we’re in right now, we’re being very conscious being very safe with how we’re handling our teams, how we’re going from place to place, how we’re operating in our training camp environment, how we are effectively bubbling ourselves … And that’s probably the more important piece of this. Regardless of vaccinations or not vaccinated, it’s what our attitudes and actions are.”
Speaking on the swimming podcast “Inside With Brett Hawke” in January, Andrew said he had already contracted the virus and justified the decision not to get vaccinated: “So my thought pattern is kind of like, if I’ve already got it, there’s not as much health risk for me.”
At the U.S. Olympic Trials, USA Swimming President and CEO Tim Hinchey estimated “around 90 percent” of the U.S. National Team had received the vaccine.
U.S. National Team managing director Lindsay Mintenko also said at the Trials:
“(Tokyo 2020 and IOC officials) are now taking into consideration vaccination status,” she said. “They aren’t going to automatically disqualify you if you are contact traced at this point (and have 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.”
Andrew’s decision not to get vaccinated has also been widely speculated as the reason he is forgoing competing in Season 3 of the International Swimming League after being the top scorer on his New York Breakers’ club (and a co-owner with his parents) in each of the first two seasons. However, his vaccination status reportedly has nothing to do with this decision.
Andrew is a medal threat in all three of his individual events in Tokyo, entering the Games ranked first in the world in the 200 IM, third in the 100 breast and fourth in the 50 free. In what will be his Olympic debut, he is also expected to feature prominently on the American men’s 400 medley relay, and potentially on the mixed 400 medley relay.
You can watch Andrew’s full media availability below: