Golfing great Rory McIlroy delivered a blow to Ireland’s hopes of an Olympic medal on Wednesday when he said he would not be going to the Rio Games over fears of the zika virus.

“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” the 27-year-old four-time major champion said in a statement.

“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realise that my health and my family’s health come before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take. I trust the Irish people will understand my decision,” he added.

The 27-year-old McIlroy was due to represent Ireland at the Games and his withdrawal is the latest blow to golf, which is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

The World Health Organisation, however, said earlier this month that there was a “very low risk” of the zika virus spreading further internationally as a result of the Olympic Games.

CHEBOKSARY, RUSSIA: Pole vault legend Yelena Isinbayeva defiantly claimed all hope of competing at the Rio Olympics is not lost after posting a world leading mark in the Russian Championships on Tuesday.

Russian track and field athletes are banned from the Games in August unless they can prove they have not been tainted by the disgraced Russian system.

Isinbayeva has threatened to sue world athletics governing body the IAAF over the Olympic ban – imposed due to state sponsored doping and mass corruption – and she stressed that she hasn’t thrown in the towel.

“Today I have to admit that deep down there is hope. It hasn’t died completely,” said the 34-yearold twice Olympic and three-time world champion, who cleared 4.90-metres in Cheboksary.

ROME: Italy’s 2008 Olympic 50km race walk champion Alex Schwazer, who returned from a doping ban to win the world championship title last month, has again tested positive for a banned substance, Italy’s athletics federation said on Wednesday.

“There has been a notice of a violation,” a spokesman said but could not confirm newspaper reports that the positive was the result of a re-test of a January sample, taken after Schwazer had qualified for the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.

Schwazer, who won t he European 20km title in 2010, served a ban of three years and nine months after admitting using the EPO blood-booster in 2012, and now faces a life ban from the sport.

Italian media quoted his lawyer Gerhard Brandstatter saying: “These are false and monstrous accusations. What Alex has always feared has happened, but we will defend ourselves and we will sue.” He added that he did not understand why a sample tested negative for banned substances in January and a second test on the same sample in May showed up positive.