Thursday September 17th, 2015

Swimming's governing body has demanded virus testing for the water that will be used for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, citing health and safety concerns for the athletes, reports the Associated Press.

The organization, FINA, had warned the organizers of the event that the portion of the sea that will be used for open water swimming events could put the athletes at risk for viruses. Until earlier this month, Olympic organizers only favored bacterial testing, not testing for viruses. 

The Associated Press recently conducted a five-month study, which showed dangerously high levels of viruses caused by human sewage at Rio's Olympic water venues.

According to the study, the area on Copacabana Beach where athletes will enter the water for swimming and triathlon events showed a minimal reading of over 2 million human adenovirus per liter. That reading is 2,000 times higher than what U.S. experts would consider very dangerous.

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“This situation is in clear disrespect for the FINA requirements concerning aquatic venues, and will negatively affect the safety conditions and the level of performances of our athletes,” FINA wrote in a letter, obtained by the AP, to the event's organizers and Rio mayor Eduardo Paes.

Added FINA: “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.”

The letter also notes that athletes are further at risk due to the fact that there is not a roof over the open-air Maria Lena Aquatic Park, where the diving, water polo and synchronized swimming events will take place.

FINA said that it will conduct tests with the Rio state institute INEA in order to “ensure that during Games time, the athletes will have the best conditions to compete.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Rio organizers said they are in contact with the World Health Organization and are taking steps to test for viruses in all of the water venues.

- Xandria James

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