The United States Olympic Paralympic Committee (USOPC) responded to photos of Michael Andrew not wearing a mask in the mixed zone, saying it was a violation of COVID mitigation protocol, they will be “reviewing this matter,” and “will take action as needed.
Update: As of 20 minutes before the start of Friday’s evening prelims session, the USOPC told USA Today they have reminded Andrew of “the Games policy and established COVID mitigation protocols” and he is allowed to take off his mask during interviews.
USA Today reporter Christine Brennan shared photos of Andrew not wearing a mask in the mixed zone after his 200 IM final Friday morning on social media. The mixed zone (shown below) is a space where media can interview the athletes after races.
Michael Andrew, the highest profile unvaccinated American Olympian, refused to wear a mask in the mixed zone. Every other US swimmer I’ve seen all week has worn one. pic.twitter.com/xwVFJGpkmL
— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) July 30, 2021
The USOPC reportedly responded to USA Today: “Not wearing a mask is a violation of the covid mitigation protocols put in place by both the USOPC and TOCOG (the Tokyo Olympic organizers) – protocols we have been adamant in following as a delegation.
“We are currently reviewing this matter with the National Governing Body and will take action as needed.”
While Andrew is not the only swimmer to be seen without his mask fully on in the mixed zone, he has been open about his decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “I didn’t want to put anything in my body that I didn’t know how I would potentially react to,” he told media over Zoom at the U.S. Olympic Trials Wave II.
“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 told USA Today why he was not wearing his mask in the mixed zone, saying “For me it’s pretty hard to breath 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 breath than protecting what’s coming out of my mouth.”
“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.”
Friday evening’s prelims session includes Andrew’s third individual event of the Olympics: the 50 free. He has already swum the 100 breast and 200 IM.
At the time when Andrew explained his decision to go to Tokyo unvaccinated, men’s U.S. Olympic head coach Dave Durden said the attitudes and actions of the athletes and staff would be what mattered in Tokyo “regardless of vaccinations or not vaccinated.”
He told media, “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.”
SwimSwam has reached out to Andrew but he has not responded yet.