Swimming Body Calls for Virus Testing in Rio Olympic Water

The international swimming federation has called for virus testing in water which will be used at next year’s Olympics, citing health concerns for athletes.

Until recently, games organizers insisted viral testing was not necessary, despite an independent five-month analysis by The Associated Press showing dangerously high levels of viruses from human sewage at all Olympic water venues in Rio de Janeiro.

The AP study showed that the area where athletes will enter the water on Copacabana Beach for marathon swimming and triathlon events had a minimal reading of more than 2 million human adenovirus per liter - 2,000 times the reading that water experts in the U.S. say would be considering highly alarming if seen on beaches in America.

“FINA and its Sports Medicine Committee strongly recommend that viral tests should also be performed,” says a FINA letter addressed to games organizers and Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, and obtained by the AP.

“It is very important for FINA that all athletes competing in the marathon swimming event in Rio 2016 Games can compete in an environment free from any bacterial or viral contamination.”

FINA said it and Rio state institute INEA are “conducting tests on the water of the Copacabana Beach in order to ensure that during Games time, the athletes will have the best conditions to compete, namely concerning their health and safety.”

It was not clear which specific tests FINA and the INEA were conducting.

In a statement Wednesday, Rio organizers said they were exploring testing for viruses in Rio’s water venues and were taking guidance from the World Health Organization.

Last month the WHO’s top water expert, Bruce Gordon, told the AP the WHO recommends viral testing in Rio’s Olympic waters.

Concerns over water quality also affect other outdoor water events, such as sailing. The sailing world governing body said it could support viral testing if it were a better measure of water quality than simply bacterial testing. Some sailors training in Rio have reported falling sick.

“What I know up until today from the athletes that take part in the test events that there is nobody with any kind of health difficulties after two, three, four weeks or what it is,” FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu told the AP on Wednesday.

“We continue to monitor it together with the Brazilian agency, doing regular tests on the quality.”

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