Tom Shields Defends Michael Andrew After Maya DiRado Comments on Vaccine; Others Also Respond

Tom Shields -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Tom Shields Defends Michael Andrew After Maya DiRado Comments on Vaccine; Others Also Respond

After 2016 U.S. Olympian Maya DiRado criticized 2021 team member and American-record holder Michael Andrew for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the OlympicsTom Shields responded on Twitter and criticized DiRado for “shaming” Andrew. Shields rhetorically asked that, as a member of the USA Swimming’s board, “What part of that responsibility involves shaming one of our Olympian’s (sic) on the eve of competition?”

Shields, who swam on the 2016 team with DiRado and is on the 2021 team with Andrew, went on to point out that he does not necessarily disagree with DiRado’s point about the importance of vaccines, but he questioned her timing and the medium of her comments and also potential ostacization of unvaccinated individuals and potential mental health consequences. Read Shields’ full Twitter thread below.

Several others were publicly critical of DiRado’s comments. 2000 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin claimed that Andrew has a natural immunity to COVID because he tested positive for the virus in December (although medical officials still recommend individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 receive the vaccine), and Patrick Callan, another member of the 2021 team, said that Andrew was “allowed to make his own decisions” and that “none of us here are holding any decision like that against him.”

General reactions to DiRado’s comments on Andrew have been mixed, with some expressing support for an individual’s right to choose whether they receive the COVID vaccine and others doubling down on the importance of vaccines. Former University of Virginia swimmer Rachel Naurath chimed in with support of DiRado (using former Notre Dame standout Emma Reaney’s Twitter account).

Andrew is the only member of the U.S. Olympic team to publicly reveal that he is unvaccinated. Others who have been asked, including Katie LedeckyCaeleb Dressel, Lilly King and Simone Manuel have all revealed they are fully vaccinated. COVID-19 has been a very real concern at the Olympics as multiple athletes and officials have already tested positive after arriving in Tokyo. So far, the only swimmer to record a positive test and be forced to withdraw from the Games is Russia’s Ilya Borodin, the world-junior-record holder in the 400 IM.