LONDON - The water quality at the Olympic sailing venue in Rio de Janeiro is a serious issue but will be resolved by the time the Games begin next year, Rio Organizing Committee President Carlos Nuzman said Tuesday.
A report carried said last month that the waters were so contaminated with high levels of bacteria and viruses from human sewage that athletes could become ill and unable to compete at the Games, the first to be held in South America.
The International Olympic Committee has ordered testing for disease-causing viruses after taking advice from the World Health Organization, while the International Sailing Federation has said it will carry out its own tests for viruses in Guanabara Bay, where the sailing events will be held.
Nuzman began his news conference in London by saying that improving the quality of the water at the Olympic venues was a key priority.
Last week, two sailors from South Korea and Germany who were training in Rio contracted infections that they said had come from the waters.
Asked whether he could guarantee that no athlete would become ill because of the well-publicized contamination, Nuzman replied: "The health of the athletes is the No.1 point we are working on. We are working very closely with the state government and the researchers, and I am sure we will have no claims [that the water is dirty] during the Games. ... Marina da Gloria needs improvement but will be totally clean by the end of the year with the construction of a new pipe structure that will take sewage and rainwater elsewhere."
Other open-air venues will stage triathlon, swimming, windsurfing, canoeing and rowing.
Turning to doping, Nuzman said he favored an idea being discussed in sporting circles that the support team behind any athlete found guilty of doping — such as the trainer, physiotherapist or masseuse — should serve the same ban as the athlete.
"As an Olympic athlete myself, who took part in volleyball in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, I have zero tolerance for doping," Nuzman said. "The whole team behind the athlete should be banned if there is a positive test. Not the country, but his personal team."