WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne has revealed she takes 64 pills a day to keep her Lyme disease at bay, but she still has not been granted a medical exemption to stay home as the season resumes under coronavirus quarantine measures.
Delle Donne had her Washington Mystics team doctor and the doctor that treats her Lyme disease write letters to WNBA officials confirming she had the potentially life-threatening tick-borne illness.
She hoped that, as her condition left her immuno-compromised, she would be granted an exemption from rejoining her team to play out the season in quarantine but still collect her salary.
But, with the WNBA's rejigged 22-game season set to start on July 25, she revealed in a piece on The Players' Tribune website that the WNBA had not approved the exemption, leaving her in a difficult spot.
"I'm now left with two choices: I can either risk my life … or forfeit my paycheck [sic]," she said, claiming the league's panel of doctors did not talk to either of her doctors.
Delle Donne was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which can present in a number of different ways, more than a decade ago and said she "didn't even think it was a question whether [she] would be exempt or not".
The panel of independent doctors the league and union agreed upon to make that decision thought otherwise, ruling on Monday she was not "high risk, and should be permitted to play in the bubble".
The disease is not included on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of underlying conditions that could put someone at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
"It hurts a lot. And maybe being hurt just makes me naive," Delle Donne wrote.
"And I know that, as athletes, we're not really supposed to talk about our feelings. But feelings are pretty much all I have left right now.
"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."
Delle Donne, who re-signed with Washington in February and would make US$215,000 this year, said she was still deciding what she would do.
She is on Washington's roster and is currently getting paid by the Mystics.
WNBA, NBA based in Florida with daily cases in the thousands
The 30-year-old forward acknowledged in her open letter her situation was "far from a unique one".
"I know that millions of Americans right now, in situations that are much worse than my own, are facing similar decisions," she said, referring to the US unemployment rate that was above 11 per cent at the start of the month according to the US Department of Labor.
"And of course, many are dealing with even worse than that: Millions more are out of work entirely.
"Many of them — especially black and brown people, and especially black and brown LGBTQ people — are dealing with food insecurity and homelessness."
Washington coach and general manager Mike Thibault made it clear in a Zoom call on Wednesday that Delle Donne would not be rushed back to play because she had been rehabbing her back after having surgery in late January to address three herniated disks she suffered in the playoffs last year.
"If at some point later in the season we're all comfortable, and I mean all comfortable, enough with both her physical progress and the safety of her joining the team in Florida, we'll make those arrangements," Thibault said.
"If we don't feel that, she'll continue to do her workouts in DC and get herself ready for the following season."
Delle Donne is coming off a historic season where she helped lead Washington to its first WNBA title, shooting more than 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from behind the three-point line and more than 90 per cent from the foul line last season to become the first player in league history to do so.
The WNBA is based in Florida, where new cases are still in the thousands every day, as is the men's league, which is set to start on July 31.