Bronze medalist in the 49er class at the Pre-Olympic Test event in Rio de Janeiro, Erik Heil, has had his infection with a multi resistant bacteria (MRSA) confirmed by lab analysis in the Charité of Berlin.
However a report written by Associated Press, and syndicated widely says that experts spoken to by AP say that the MRSA was unlikely to have been picked up through contact with the polluted water in the marina used by the Olympic sailors. Further the article says that it is not possible to accurately test for MRSA as the water contents and quality will have changed since the Pro-Olympic regatta.
However later in the story it is claimed that an enzyme KPC was found in a river which has its outflow into the waters containing the Olympic sailing courses. It is claimed that the KPC enzyme is more injurious to sailor health than MRSA.
Three sailors were affected with various illnesses and ailments during the regatta, which were attributed to the pollution in the Guanabara Bay. Officials claimed that the incidence was no different from what would normally be expected in a regatta of that size and type.
Heil broke out in various inflammations on the final day of the Pre-Olympic regatta, and was admitted to the Berlin hospital on his return to Germany.
He has appealed to the Olympic organizers to “do everything in their power to clean the Olympic waters”.
However according to German media he doesn’t see the event moving to a better venue. Ironically he sees the three inner courses being better from a competitive perspective as they are more tricky and challenging, giving the rivals of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in the 49er class, a better chance to beat the Kiwi duo who have dominated the event since the last Olympics.
If they have to race on the outer ocean courses Burling/Tuke will be able to “play out his extraordinary speed advantage”, say German sources.
Heil blames the harbour of Marina da Gloria than the inner courses as possible source of his infection.
On the basis that little will change for the Olympics which are less than 12 months away, the German 49er crew will be working hard on improving their sailing gear and clothing, with particular attention to wetsuits and protective solutions.
They are also looking at the option of wearing outer clothing which they discard before racing. There will also be disinfectant measures of both their bodies and gear, and sea showers aboard the coach boats to clean off the polluted water.
After several treatments in the Berlin Charité hospital Erik Heil is now back at home in Kiel and on recovering. He has returned to his apartment and the inflammations are have healed, he told Yacht.de on Monday evening by telephone.
‘Only the hole in my leg is still open,” he said. “The drainage will stay in place for a while’.
Laser sailor Malte Kamrath, currently in practical year working as a doctor in Kiel Hospital, is keeping an eye on Heil’s recovery. He is expected to be sailing again in a week, if the doctors give him the green light.
German doctors and athletes continue to believe that cause of the infection, confirmed by blood tests salvation, was probably the most polluted harbor of Marina da Gloria – it has may have also has infected the Olympic inshore courses in the Guanabara Bay – but this is less likely in their view.
‘Where else would I get me these infections?’ Heil said to Yacht.de, “They have begun after the first week and a half after the beginning of sailing in Rio de Janeiro.’
Meanwhile in Buzios, about three hours drive away from Rio de Janeiro and widely touted as an alternative Olympic venue, public rallies have been held to show support for shifting the Sailing Olympics to its clean waters.
Authorities in Rio de Janeiro have once again pledged to eliminate the sewerage inflows into the marina and race area.