TEEN HEALTH Published August11, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

American Rowers Sickened at Next Year’s Olympic Site in Rio

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Two Rowers at the World Junior Rowing Championships in Rio de Janeiro. Water pollution at the site may have sicked some rowers.
(Photo : Buda Mendies, Getty Images)

The 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro are less than a year away and now there are new worries over the water quality at some of the venues. Thirteen teenaged rowers on the American team at the World Junior Rowing Championships, along with rowers from other teams, were sickened after competing at the lake that will be used next year.

All of the water venues that will be used next year were found to have high levels of viruses and, in some cases bacteria, from human sewage, according to an independent investigation conducted by The Associated Press. Water venues will host sports such as rowing, sailing, triathlon, canoeing, and distance swimming in the waters around Rio. This included the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where this rowing competition took place.

The American rowers and four of the team's staff members suffered various gastrointestinal symptoms during the team's two weeks of training in Rio, according to team coach Susan Francia. The rowers could have gotten ill from food or drinking water, but Dr. Kathryn Ackerman, the team's physician, believes the illnesses came from water in the lake. After the illnesses started to hit, the team started taking extra precautions such as washing hands immediately after coming out of the boats and disinfecting their oar handles. They had already been taking other precautions, according to Francia.

One U.S. boat got tipped into the water during the event and one rower went into the water. That person did not get sick.

US Rowing, which oversees the sport in the United States, said it is investigating what sickened the athletes, who range in age from 16-19. None are likely to be Olympians next year.

A spokesman for the Rio organizing committee attributed American team illnesses to "class travel symptoms," according to the AP. He said that eight Americans, three Britons, and three Australians were treated for symptoms including diarrhea.

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