Olympic Athletes Forced to Compete in Raw Sewage

Will the Rio Summer Olympics lead to a mass outbreak in disease? This seems to be the consensus after a report by the Associated Press found a dangerous levels of viruses present in the water that athletes will be swimming, surfing and boating in for the event.

So just how bad is the viral load in the waters of Brazil? Well after testing all three sites where athletes are set to compete, they found that levels sometimes measured over 1.5 million times the amount that would be considered dangerous on U.S. beaches. One expert likened it to swimming in “raw sewage.”

Another water expert commissioned by the AP told the news outlet that, “international athletes at all water venues would have a 99% chance of infection if they ingested just three teaspoons of water.” The AP notes that just because an athlete is infected does not mean they will fall ill. But it does mean that they will carry the virus in them, and possibly expose others to the disease.

So what diseases might be expected from ingesting this highly polluted water? According to the report the viruses found could cause a number of gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders. Some of which could lead to further complications with the heart and the brain.

The International Olympic Committee, however, has hit back against these accusations, saying that the water tested posed no significant health risks in that area. Dr. Richard Budgett told reporters, “We’ve had reassurance from the World Health Organization and others that there is no significant risk of athlete health…Clearly there are going to be some individuals who have become infected, but it’s a matter of looking at the risk realistically and realizing there are going to be a lot of competitions on these venues. We’ve got to hold things in perspective.”

The reason the WHO found no significant risk is because they tested for bacteria, not viruses. Yet rather then adjust with this new information, the Olympic Committee has reaffirmed the public that the venue will not be moved.

If you think this seems like an unbelievably dismissive response to questions about the health and viral exposure of athletes competing in the Summer Olympics, you’re not alone. Many health experts are wondering how such poor water quality could be taken so lightly.

ESPN pointed out that some of the athletes are already falling ill. Competitive sailor David Hussl told them, “I’ve had high temperatures and problems with my stomach…It’s always one day completely in bed and then usually not sailing for two or three days.” Other athletes told them that they were disgusted while training in the waters, constantly trying to spit out any water that comes near to their mouth.

For people who have trained for decades to be part of the Olympics, it seems wildly unfair that athletes would have to focus on spitting out polluted water while competing for one of the top honors of their lives.

Yet the reality is, Rio and the Olympic Committee has known this is an issue for some time, but simply failed to clean up to expectation. They promised an 80 percent reduction in pollutants, but back in January, another story by AP reported that Rio would fall short of its pledge to clean up even 50 percent of pollution.

Although Brazil is promising to continue their cleanup efforts as the lead up to the 2016 Summer Olympic continues, doctors are actually telling athletes to head down to Rio early and get acclimatized to viruses in the water. Meaning Olympians with little to no body fat are being forced to expose themselves to potentially deadly diseases all because Brazil has failed to follow through on their pledge to clean up the waterways.

Photo Credit: Paulo rsmenezes/Wikimedia


Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Meant Brazil, the land of greedy destruction of the Amazon.

Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Clean up your act and do something about your polluted waterways, Argentina

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago


Julia Cabrera-Woscek

This is disgusting! it should not be ANY event if its not generally safe. ho wans to be swimming around other people's feces?

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

When will the "oluympic committee" start puting competitors first. This is just disgusting. Athletes work so hard to make it to the olympics just to have to compete in a toilet bowl. This is wrong. I refused to watch any sochi and I refuse to support this. It is wrong to allow this to happen.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

very sad

Anteater Ants
Anteater A2 years ago


Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

Rosemary Diehl
Rosemary Diehl2 years ago

Heard about this on NPR the other day. How GROSS!