U.S. Olympic officials take steps to protect athletes from Zika virus

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Olympics are 72 days out, which means athletes are going all out in their preparation to compete on the world's largest stage.

Several athletes are getting ready at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and that includes addressing a challenge to athletes' health because the games are in Brazil.

"What do they need to maximize their ability to perform on the field of play? Then, we bring those services and resources together," said Alan Ashley, U.S. Olympic Committee chief of sports performance.

Those resources include everything from strength and conditioning to technology that measures the speed and intensity of each powerful punch that helps marathoners run faster, to sports medicine and psychology.

They even tap the science of eating the right foods at the right time for peak performance.

"It's really an important topic and one we pay a lot of attention to," Ashley said.

It’s also taking steps to protect athletes from an opponent more formidable than any person.

The USOC knows it's taking its athletes into the epicenter of the Zika virus: Brazil. It’s a country where the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention advises women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to avoid.

Infections during pregnancy cause serious fetal brain defects. Of the 550 U.S. Olympic athletes going to Rio, more than half are women. But none has yet said they'll withdraw from the games.

That includes wrestler Elena Pirozhkova.

"Just like they take care of our training and nutritional needs, I know (the USOC) will take care of our safety needs as well," she said.

The USOC educates athletes about mosquito bite prevention. They'll stay in an air-conditioned Olympic Village. And they’ll be given long-sleeved shirts and pants — along with condoms for up to six months after the games.

The USOC gives the athletes every advantage to go for the gold and to reduce the chance of a little bug derailing their biggest dreams.

“I have been training at this elite level for 10 years now. So yeah, nothing is going to stop me," Pirozhkova said.

U.S. officials say American athletes face a low risk of infection, in part because they'll be in Brazil during its winter season when there are fewer mosquitoes.

But the USOC says ultimately it is up to each individual athlete to decide.