P. Gasol picks Spanish team over Zika concerns

Pau Gasol says he is willing to play for Spain at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, writing in a newspaper column that his duty to the national team overwhelmed his concerns about the Zika virus.

“My commitment to the national team is greater than my fears over what might happen,” Gasol wrote Saturday in the Spanish newspaper Marca. “My feelings of passion and responsibility toward my national team, my sport and my teammates are huge. They have always been and always will be. My first instinct in that sense has always been to want to be with the national team each summer.”

Gasol also called on Rio officials to ensure the safety of everyone attending the Games, which begin Aug. 5.

“I will be going hoping and trusting that the people and organizations will do everything possible and take measures to minimize possible risk to the athletes. I have always had the doubt that they — so as not to put other elements of the event in danger — have not been mindful of the health and safety of the athletes and all those who will attend the Olympics in Rio — whether those people are athletes, accompanying family, friends or fans. It is a pity that [the situation] is like this.

“We must trust in the authorities that they will follow up with what they have promised and take proper measures.”

Spain national team coach Sergio Scariolo will announce the final team on Monday. Gasol is looking to play in his fourth Olympics.

Earlier this month, the 35-year-old Gasol said he was considering freezing his sperm, reiterating that was still a possibility in his column.

“It is a measure of precaution that any doctor would recommend in these uncertain circumstances, just as they would say to use mosquito netting, long sleeves, etc,” Gasol wrote. “Preventive measures are important. I try to be consistent with what I say and do.”

The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to severe birth defects in infants born to women infected by Zika.

“My feelings are bittersweet because of the situation for the athletes who will attend, but the circumstances are what they are. I am hopeful that the health, local and international authorities and the organizations in charge of these Games are sufficiently consistent and responsible with all of those who are willing to compete for their countries,” Gasol wrote. “As we have seen, there have been more than just a few who have opted not to go, some of them wielding this reason — that of the fear over the Zika virus — while others haven’t mentioned it, although there is no doubt that the health situation in Brazil was an indirect factor in their decision.”

Gasol has led Spain to two consecutive silver medals after losing to the United States in the 2008 and 2012 finals.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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