Madison rower: Rio de Janeiro water ‘definitely a concern’

Madison rower: Rio de Janeiro water ‘definitely a concern’
Andrew Gaard

A Madison rower who helped lead the U.S. junior team to its Men’s Eight silver medal at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Rio de Janeiro last week, said water pollution concerns are very real for athletes.

“It’s definitely a concern. (We) think about it all the time,” 18-year-old Andrew Gaard said. “You’re surrounded by it all the time. You just do what you can to stay healthy.”

An Associated Press independent analysis showed all of the water 2016 Summer Olympic athletes will compete in was contaminated with 1.7 million times the amount of human waste considered to be hazardous on a southern California beach.

Gaard said knowing the risk, he and his seven teammates used bottled instead of tap water, avoided foods they thought had been washed in a sink, and used hand sanitizer when they got out of the water.

Gaard said the team is still not sure if the contaminated water is the reason why one of his teammates got sick.

“We know that the water has been tested. It does have certain contaminants in it. But we weren’t sure if that was the cause of any of the illness,” Gaard said

The West High School grad will attend the University of Washington in the fall, where his rowing career will continue with dreams of one day competing in the Olympics.

The Olympic Games’ executive director said the sports organization will be sticking to World Health Organization guidelines, only recommending testing for bacteria not viruses.