Rowers ill, but too soon to blame Rio waters

RIO DE JANEIRO • There is no evidence that abnormal levels of viruses or bacteria in the water caused rowers competing in Rio de Janeiro last weekend to fall ill, United States and international sailing officials said on Monday.

The Associated Press reported that 13 members of the 40-strong US team fell ill after the world junior championships, a test event for next year's Olympics in Brazil.

US officials confirmed that 15 members took ill but said that was not unusual in international events and it was too early to blame dirty water.

"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," Glenn Merry, CEO of USRowing, said.

He added that American rowers often took ill abroad and said the fact that coaches also got sick in Rio was an indication water might not be the problem.

The only athlete who fell into the lagoon and consumed significant amounts of water was not one of those who fell ill.

Event organisers said they treated 14 people for diarrhoea - eight Americans and three each from Australia and Britain - and that all were medicated and fit enough to compete.

A spokesman for Rio 2016, who asked not to be named, said "everything suggests" the diarrhoea was caused by familiar travel woes rather than dirty water.

The championships were held at the same lagoon that will be used during South America's first Olympic Games next year.

Sailing, triathlon and open water swimming events will also be held there. Unsafe levels of viruses and bacteria were recorded in the water, according to an independent study commissioned by the AP and released last month. REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2015, with the headline 'Rowers ill, but too soon to blame Rio waters'. Print Edition | Subscribe