Olympics-Sailing-Belgians suspect dirty water for Laser sailor illness
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO Aug 11 (Reuters) - Doctors for the Belgian Olympic medical team suspect polluted water in Rio's Guanabara Bay is responsible for a serious illness that sapped the strength of Evi Van Acker, Laser Radial 2012 bronze medallist, her coach told Reuters.
Van Acker, who sits 10th overall after six of 10 preliminary races, was stricken with a severe gastro-intestinal illness during training in July and despite a course of antibiotics her strength and stamina remain compromised, said Wim Van Bladel, her coach in a phone interview in Rio.
Olympic organisers have faced harsh criticism for choosing Guanabara Bay as the sailing venue and for failing to meet promises to clean up sewage that contaminates the bay with bacteria and viruses and floating trash that threatens to slow or damage boats.
"The judgement of the medical team is that the water is the likely cause of her illness and continuing low-energy level. These diseases affect your muscles' ability to react," he said.
In a statement in Dutch, Belgian Olympic officials didn't mention the water, only saying Van Acker sickened several weeks ago, that her performance was compromised and she was undergoing an intense 36-hour treatment programme.
The Rio de Janeiro Olympic organising committee and World Sailing, the sport's governing body, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
World Sailing has said it regularly tests the water and that it is within international standards. Many sailors have said they have suffered no ill-effects and downplay any risks, suggesting that the water concerns are overshadowing some of the most exciting and challenging sailing of their lives.
However, Van Bladel is not convinced, saying that the impact of Van Acker's illness showed on Wednesday when Laser Radial sailors left the light-wind courses of Guanabara Bay for the large waves and heavy winds of the Copacabana ocean course outside the Bay. Continuación...