Publish date:

USOPC Backtracks, Says Swimmer Michael Andrew Didn't Violate Protocols by Not Wearing Mask

Originally, the USOPC said Olympic swimmer Michael Andrew "violated" COVID-19 protocols by not wearing a mask in the mixed zone at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Within hours, the USOPC had reversed course saying Andrew is allowed to take off his mask for interviews. 

The original statement, per 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.”

But the USOPC later announced that while Andrew “has been reminded of the Games policy and established COVID mitigation protocols," he is allowed to be maskless during mixed-zone interviews. 

Andrew is the most well-known unvaccinated athlete on Team USA, and while all of his teammates have worn masks in the mixed zone, he elected not to, citing health concerns. 

"For me, it’s pretty hard to breath in after kind of sacrificing my body in the water," Andrew said. "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. 

SI Recommends

"...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 I'm comfortable with. When we're racing, it's important to get my oxygen."

When asked again, the 22-year-old said there was "no reason" why he was not following the protocols, but that he would "throw it on when I’m done here." He continued, saying it was difficult to speak with it on. 

Andrew is the American record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke, but he has failed to medal in two events at 2020 Tokyo. He revealed several weeks ago he chose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine so that it did not interfere with his training schedule. He finished fifth in the men’s 200-meter individual medley Friday morning.

Sign up for our free daily Olympics newsletter: Very Olympic Today. You'll catch up on the top stories, smaller events, things you may have missed while you were sleeping and links to the best writing from SI’s reporters on the ground in Tokyo.

More Olympics Coverage: