For Pete's Sake

U.S. rowing team will use sewage-proof suits at Rio Olympics

It’s a month before the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and each day seemingly brings more disturbing news.

Athletes are staying away because of Zika virus concerns, police are saying they won’t be able to protect tourists and a Reuters report says a drug-resistant “super bacteria” has been found Guanabara Bay.

This is all on top of an Associated Press story from earlier this month that noted “bacteria from human sewage has in all of Rio’s Olympic and Paralympic water venues. They include the Guanabara Bay, the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where the rowing competitions are to be held.”

The good news for U.S. rowers is that they have sewage-proof suits.

The AP reported that the suits are knitted with an anti-microbial finish, and it has water-repellant features that will keep the rowers dry.

“The new unisuit and other apparel are finished with a general antimicrobial to control exposure to most bacteria that rowers may come in contact with in the water,” Mark Sunderland, a textile engineer at Philadelphia University who developed the rowing apparel, told CNN.

However, rowers' bodies not covered by the suits will be exposed to water, he added.

And, as a story said, the suits may not help.

“They will literally be immersing themselves in very high levels of pathogens,” Katherine Mena, who researches waterborne pathogens at the University of Texas School of Public Health told Wired. “The infection risk will be pretty high.”

Canadian rowers seeking to compete in this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro train at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, drawn by the great weather, calm waters and uninterrupted practice time away from their daily lives.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff