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Written on 18th August 2016 by Melloney Harbutt

The Olympic games in Rio are in full swing and everyone from around the world is enjoying watching World and Olympic records being broken and their home nation Olympians bringing home medals.

What is not known by many is that a famous Olympian unfortunately suffered from pleural mesothelioma, an asbestos related disease which led to his untimely death.

The Olympian was Terry McCann, the American wrestler.

Terry McCann’s wrestling career

Terry was from Chicago, Illinois and had a fantastic wrestling career which included  winning three consecutive AAU National Championships and posting the only undefeated international record of his time, as the only man to go undefeated against the Russians.

Terry was first selected for the 1956 Olympic Team but did not go because he was in school and wanted to complete his education.

Terry then begun to suffer from knee problems and was at risk of not being selected for the 1960 Olympic games in Rome.  The American Olympic Committee however were keen to enlist Terry as they did not want to lose medals to the Russians and Terry was eventually awarded a place on the 1960 American Olympic team.

Terry lost his first match on points but went on to win a succession of matches including against his Russian rival and received a 1960 Olympic Gold Medal for Wrestling.

Terry’s mesothelioma

In 2004 Terry begun to suffer symptoms of chest pain and breathlessness.

Terry had a successful career in surfing and also in wrestling coaching.  Both activities kept Terry extremely fit and because of this he initially refused to acknowledge his symptoms and simply dismissed them as being due to age.

Sadly in 2005, Terry was diagnosed as suffering from malignant mesothelioma of the pleura.

Terry was able to recall working in an oil refinery in the late 1950’s for a few weeks whilst training for the Olympic games so he could support his young family.  Terry stated he would come home from work in the evening with fine silvery dust in his hair and clothes which he later found out was asbestos.  Terry had no idea this asbestos dust would cause him to suffer from a terminal disease.

Terry went on to become an outspoken critic of the asbestos industry and CEO’s of the American corporations that mined asbestos, that manufactured asbestos products and that imported or exported asbestos products.

Terry said, “They knew it would kill, but they sold it anyway, and made money. There’s a word for that. Eventually, the bad guys will be tried by the highest court, and they will pay.”

Terry sadly passed away as a result of his mesothelioma in 2006.

The 2016 Olympic games in Rio

Asbestos is now more controlled in most countries, though sadly not in all.  It is hoped that Terry’s recent asbestos related death combined with the Rio Olympic games may cause the asbestos industry to reflect on the dangers of working with asbestos and result in stricter asbestos working guidelines, or perhaps even a complete ban on the use of asbestos, something Boyes Turner would support.