FISA is pleased with health survey results from this year's World Rowing Junior Championships in Rio de Janeiro ©Getty Images

The World Rowing Federation (FISA) has said it is "pleased" with the results of a health survey from August’s Junior World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, which is said to show that incidences of illness were much lower than previous years.

Following the Championships, which also served as the test event for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic rowing regatta, the FISA Sports Medicine Commission carried out a survey of the 54 National Federations (NFs) that participated to establish if there were particular health issues around the event in light of concerns over water quality at the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon venue.

All NFs, comprising 567 competing rowers and approximately 350 team personnel, responded to the survey with 40 reporting no illness among their team members during or after the event.

Thirteen reported one to five cases of illness, and one team reported more than five cases of illness.

Fifteen members of the United States rowing team were reported ill following the event, but officials warned it would be "easy but irresponsible" to immediately assume a link with high levels of pollution in the lagoon.

USRowing chief executive Glenn Merry confirmed to insidethegames how four coaches and 11 athletes had fallen ill during the regatta with them all reportedly suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms. 

"Whenever a group travels together to another country, there is always a higher risk of illness," said FISA executive director Matt Smith.

"This can be for a variety of reasons including new foods being consumed, the impact of long haul flights as well as the effect of new surroundings and travelling with a large number of people.

"The level of illness at the Rio Junior Championships was lower than at many other Junior Championships."

United States won bronze in the women's eight at the World Rowing Junior Championships, despite some of the team having struggled with illness in the build-up
United States won bronze in the women's eight at the World Rowing Junior Championships, despite some of the team having struggled with illness in the build-up ©Getty Images

It is claimed that the lagoon water was tested every second day from one month before the Championships and then every day from one week before until the end of the regatta.

Furthermore, water quality is said to have been tested twice a week for many years at six different points of the lagoon.

The testing followed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for determining the quality of water by measuring the presence of E. coli and total coliform.

According to World Rowing, the water quality was well below the threshold of concern for secondary contact during the Championships and was even below the threshold for primary contact. 

The survey stated that the Championships took place in "very acceptable water quality conditions", noting that two rowers capsized in the lagoon during the regatta and a group of Dutch supporters swam in the lagoon following their junior men’s eight victory, all without becoming ill.

"While it is regretful that any rower should fall ill and miss his or her chance to compete at a major event, the number of illnesses among the teams at this year’s event was very low when compared to prior years’ Junior Championships," the survey concluded.

Pollution has become a major concern at Rio 2016 venues for many of the water-based sports, with the sailing venue, Guanabara Bay, attracting most attention.

A study conducted earlier this year by the Associated Press reported a "major risk" of athletes contracting illnesses, with at least two sailors having been taken ill during a test event in August.

Unlike investigations carried out by Rio 2016, which have relied upon bacterial testing, this investigation was based on viral testing, prompting calls for organisers to follow suit.

But last month the WHO recommended not using viral testing for routine monitoring, despite previously suggesting it could be necessary.

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