We keep hearing that the Zika virus and water quality is not as bad as portrayed in the news; additionally today it was reported that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chief executive Scott Blackmun has moved to downplay the risk of Zika virus in the face of a multitude of questions on the issue, claiming not to be aware of a “single athlete who has made a decision not to attend” Rio 2016 because of it. As of January 2016 the following statement has been issued by the CDC regarding the Zika virus and travel http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/s0315-zika-virus-travel.html, additionally on February, 2016 the CDC launched a case study concerning Zika virus http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/2016/02/zika-in-brazil-cdc-launches-case-control-study.html.
The IOC and the various world-wide Olympic committees need to take the Zika virus and the water conditions in Brazil seriously and they need to dispatch representatives to Brazil post haste so that they can make a determination now regarding the seriousness of health issues and complications that can impact athletes and even cause their death. There is still too much of the unknown regarding the potential dangers of being exposed to a virus from mosquito’s and other dangers from the contaminated water.
As far as the water conditions it has been well documented that the athletes that will be completing in swimming and boating events in the waters of Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be doing so in waters so contaminated, containing human feces and many other unknown things. The exposure poses great risk of them becoming violently ill. In August, 2015 13 of the 40-strong USA rowing team came down with stomach illness at the world junior championships in Rio – a test event for next year’s Olympics – with the team doctor expressing suspicions it was because of pollution in the lagoon where the competition took place. http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/dec/07/rio-2016-olympic-games-ioc-meeting
The dangers of completing have been spelled out and the seriousness is indicated; it is expected that more then 10, 000 athletes from 205 nations are expected to complete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Not all of the athletes will be competing in swimming and boating but all athletes will be exposed to the Zika virus and water conditions. As of the writing of this piece there is no evidence from testing that indicates that the Zika virus is under control or the water venues are safe and virus and bacteria free.
In the end it’s that athletes that assume and take all the risk to complete for their respective countries. The clock continues to tick and the pressure remains on the athletes to decide instead of the IOC and other Olympic world governing bodies making the decision for the protection of all.
Fred Cromartie, Ed. D.
Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org