USOPC Declares Mask-Less Michael Andrew Did Not Violate COVID-19 Protocols

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Michael Andrew (USA) after the men's 200m individual medley final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

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USOPC Declares Mask-Less Michael Andrew Did Not Violate COVID-19 Protocols

Michael Andrew failed to medal after a disastrous last 50 in the final of the men’s 200 individual medley Friday morning. He then failed to follow the Tokyo Olympics’ COVID-19 protocols – and further, doubled down on why they shouldn’t apply to him despite his refusal to get vaccinated – in explaining the race.

First the pool, where Andrew split a 30.69 off the end of the 200 IM, plummeting from first in the standings at 150 meters to fifth at the final touch. The swimmer who carried high hopes into Tokyo has missed out on medals in both of his individual events – he was fourth in the 100 breaststroke – with the 50 freestyle still to come, prelims of which are Friday night.

When he walked through the mixed zone after the 200 IM final to talk to media, Andrew was carrying but not wearing a mask, as is required. The vast majority of swimmers to come through that area – where they interact with online, print and broadcast media over a distance of two meters away – have been wearing masks for all or part of their availability. (It’s yet another branding opportunity that the U.S. and its sponsors have taken, creating internet memes in the process). That applies even to those who are vaccinated, which Andrew is not, as revealed in a lengthy answer during a pre-Olympics availability.

“For me, it’s pretty hard to breathe in after kind of sacrificing my body in the water,” Michael Andrew said about the mask. “So I feel like my health is a little more tied to being able to breathe than protecting what’s coming out of my mouth.

“I do — I respect the decision. I think it’s great that there’s procedures in [place], but at the end of the day, all of us here have been under quarantine, and under the same testing protocol. So there’s a level of safety I’m comfortable with. When we’re racing, it’s important to get my oxygen.”

When asked why he wasn’t wearing a mask, he said there was no reason and that he would put one on after leaving the media area when he was done talking.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, when made aware of the mask-less presser by journalists, reviewed the issue and determined that according to the Tokyo 2020 Playbook, athletes can conduct interviews without a mask. The USOPC initially said Andrew committed a violation.

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