Rio Olympic rowing water not to blame for US sickness: Organizers

Pollution in the Olympic rowing lagoon in Rio de Janeiro was not responsible for illness among US athletes at an Olympic warm-up last weekend, Brazilian organizers said Tuesday.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 12, 2015, 01:10 AM IST

Rio de Janeiro: Pollution in the Olympic rowing lagoon in Rio de Janeiro was not responsible for illness among US athletes at an Olympic warm-up last weekend, Brazilian organizers said Tuesday.

"There is absolutely no evidence to link the water quality and the illnesses," Philip Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Rio2016 organizing committee, told AFP.

USRowing said four coaches and 11 athletes from the US team got ill during the weekend`s world junior championships, which were held as a test event ahead of the Summer Games in 12 months.

The lagoon has previously been criticized over its pollution levels, but Olympic organizers say the waters were clean enough for the competition, while USRowing said it had no proof that the lagoon, located in the heart of the city, was to blame.

"It would be easy but irresponsible for us to immediately assume that the rowing course is the main or sole point of exposure that caused the illnesses," USRowing said in a statement.

"We are reviewing all points of contact to determine where this illness came from. It may indeed be the lake but other sources are also possible."

The US rowing body underlined that team members also got sick during other foreign trips. "Recently in Italy our senior team had six athletes become ill out of 25."

Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said tests in the lagoon have shown "potential health risks based on the fluctuation of E.coli contamination."

However, the risk was considered to be acceptable.

"Athletes will not have significantly increased health risk" if they kept contact with the water to a minimum, Jasarevic said in an email. This would mean avoiding "ingestion of water by rowers."

"Risks would increase if athletes were to fall in the water, with ingestion of water," he said.

Wilkinson said "we`re testing twice a week and according to international standards." During test events, testing increases to every two days.

At the junior championships three Dutch competitors jumped in to celebrate "and they are fine," he noted.