Olympic swimmer Michael Andrew found himself in hot water after deciding against wearing a mask while speaking to reporters on Friday, July 20.
According to the Associated Press, via NBC News, 22-year-old Andrew was noticeably maskless when he stopped to talk to press after finishing fifth in the men's 200-meter individual medley. While it's noted by the AP that "most swimmers" wear masks outside the pool, and media and other employees are required to wear them inside the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Andrew said he struggles to breathe under a face covering.
"For me," he explained to reporters, "it's pretty hard to breathe 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 breathe than protecting what's coming out of my mouth."
The San Diego native, who has publicly said he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, continued, "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."
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Tokyo, Andrew's choice to go maskless has spurred criticism. When contacted by USA Today Sports, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee first said in part, "Not wearing a mask is a violation of the COVID mitigation protocols put in place by both the USOPC and TOCOG."
However, after reviewing the Games Playbook, the USOPC determined he was not in violation of the rules.
Per the AP, their statement read, "Michael has been reminded of the Games policy and established Covid mitigation protocols, and has acknowledged the importance of following all guidelines intended to keep athletes and the community safe."
Prior to the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Andrew told the press he would not get the COVID-19 vaccine because he "didn't want to put anything in my body that I didn't know how I would potentially react to."
On July 23, the USOPC's medical chief said that approximately 100 of the 613 U.S. athletes competing in Tokyo were not vaccinated.
Learn more about Andrew and his fellow swimming teammates in our gallery below: