'I'll risk my life or forfeit my paycheck' - WNBA star Elena Delle Donne

Elena Delle Donne
Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics won the WNBA Finals against the Connecticut Sun in October 2019

US basketball star Elena Delle Donne says she must decide whether to "risk her life" or lose her wages after she was denied the opportunity to opt out of the upcoming season.

The 30-year-old told BBC Sport that she applied to the WNBA to opt out of the upcoming season on medical grounds as she suffers from chronic Lyme Disease.

She was named the WNBA's most valuable player last season as her Washington Mystics side won the season finals.

"The decision hurts a lot," she said.

Lyme disease is not included on the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) list of underlying conditions that could put someone at an increased risk for severe illness from coronavirus.

But Delle Donne said that she would be at a high risk of serious illness if she contracted the virus.

She applied to the league under the WNBA player medical evaluation protocol but a panel of three doctors denied her request.

"For me my body does not handle viruses like an average healthy body so when Covid came around and this whole situation happened with the WNBA in no way did I think they would deem me not high risk," she said.

Had Delle Donne been granted a medical waiver she would have been able to miss the season and still claim full pay. However, after being refused she will forfeit her wages if she decides not to play.

"I'm now left with two choices: I can either risk my life or forfeit my paycheck," Delle Donne wrote in an article for the Players Tributeexternal-link. "Honestly? That hurts.

"I don't have NBA player money. I don't have the desire to go to war with the league on this. And I can't appeal."

The WNBA will hold its entire 2020 season without fans at a single site in Florida starting 25 July.

The BBC has approached the league for comment.

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