Jessica Ennis-Hill’s coach Toni Minichiello has called on the British Olympic Association (BOA) to change their pre-Olympic Games preparations due to the Zika virus crisis in Brazil.
The threat of Zika ahead of Rio 2016 has caused concern across the globe given the virus’ possible links to the rise of microcephaly, a birth defect that involves abnormal brain and cranial development in infants.
The World Health Organisation last week declared the Zika outbreak a public health emergency, but Rio 2016 officials have been insistent that athletes will not be endangered.
Most of the emphasis in educating the public about the disease has focused on pregnant women, who risk having children with birth defects if they are exposed – though the link between Zika and the defects has not been proven by scientists.
The BOA are set to gather their athletes in Belo Horizonte ahead of the Games in August, however Minichiello – who guided Ennis-Hill to heptathlon gold in 2012 – has raised concerns after the city declared a state of emergency in December following an infestation of mosquitoes, which can transmit Zika.
“We should be looking at finding a camp that minimises the risk,” he told The Times.
“Coaches have a duty of care and I certainly would not be encouraging an athlete to go anywhere that could have long-term effects.
“Coaches spend their lives trying to get athletes as healthy as possible. We have to try to minimise the risk, and that might mean flying in as late as possible.”
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