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German sailor Heil infected by Rio's polluted water

German sailor Heil infected by Rio's polluted water
By Hugo Lowell
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German sailor Erik Heil has been admitted to hospital for several skin infections after competing at a Rio Olympic test event held in polluted waters, it has emerged Friday.

Heil, who finished third in the 49er class regatta with partner Thomas Ploessel, has had to have part of his inflamed hip scraped off without local anesthetic. He also has three other infections on his legs as well as on a nail.

“I have never in my life had infections on the legs. Never!” said Heil on the sailing team’s Olympic blog.

“I assume I picked that up at the test regatta. The cause should be the Marina da Gloria where their is a constant flow of waste water from the city’s hospitals.”

The Berlin hospital treating him has since said that he had been infected by multi-resistant germs, and that so far, none of the daily antibiotics had appeared to have taken effect.

The news comes after South Korean windsurfer Wonwoo Cho was admitted to hospital in the South American city during a separate test event, for an illness his coach said was “probably from the water.”

The 26-year-old’s case has now been taken up by the German national Olympic committee (DOSB) and it has been confirmed that the body will escalate the incident to Rio 2016 organisers and the international sailing federation (ISAF).

“We contacted Erik Heil and the German sailing federation and are taking this case seriously,” DOSB CEO Michael Vesper confirmed to Reuters. “The sailing federation will inform Rio 2016 organisers and the international sailing federation.”

“I already raised the issue of water quality during last week’s chef de mission meeting in Rio and the mayor of the city said it was their responsibility as this was not an Olympic problem but a problem of the city of Rio that needs to be tackled and solved.”

Olympic organisers have come under heavy fire in recent months for not doing enough to clean up the polluted Rio waterways, which in less than a year’s time will host sailing, rowing, triathlon and open water swimming.

A privately-commissioned investigation last month found Rio’s waterways to have dangerously high levels of viruses from human faeces.

The International Olympic Committee, however, has declined to endorse for virus testing in Rio, as the World Health Organisation guidelines recommend only bacterial testing and little is in fact known about testing for viruses.

“WHO is very clear that bacterial testing is what should be followed,” IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi said at a news conference on the matter.

“They have restated that bacterial testing is the measure that has to be used and will continue to be used by the authorities. … It is the best measure to be used.”

“We have also asked if with these measures and with this testing we can ensure the quality of the water for the athletes and preserving safety and the answer is yes,” he concluded.

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