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Timeline of Rio Olympic water testing broken promises

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A timeline of key moments since The Associated Press first reported on contamination of Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic waterways:

July 30 – The Associated Press publishes its first story based on data from five months of viral and bacterial testing of Rio’s venues for Olympic water sports. The levels of disease-causing viruses were similar to those found in raw sewage. The medical director of the International Olympic Committee says in response that there are no plans to change venues and that the World Health Organization, which acts in an advisory role for the IOC, has reassured Olympic officials there is “no significant risk of athlete health.”

July 31 – The Rio de Janeiro state government and the state environmental agency blast the AP report as alarmist and say it is unfair to judge Rio’s waters based on viral counts, limits of which are not designated in Brazilian legislation – or most nations. They also question the qualifications of the laboratory where the AP samples were analyzed. David Zee, an oceanography professor at Rio’s state university who has studied pollution in Guanabara Bay for decades and had no part in the AP study, says: “It’s natural that the authorities react saying that `everything is fine,’ but everything is not fine.” He says the AP testing “was done in a trustworthy lab.”

Aug. 1 – WHO tells the AP in an emailed statement that it has now “advised the IOC to widen the scientific base of indicators to include viruses. The risk assessment should be revised accordingly, pending the results of further analysis.” The International Sailing Federation becomes the first to break with the IOC, saying it will carry out its own viral testing of Rio’s waters.

Aug. 2 – IOC reverses course. “The WHO is saying they are recommending viral testing,” IOC’s medical director, Dr. Richard Budgett, tells the AP. “We’ve always said we will follow the expert advice, so we will now be asking the appropriate authorities in Rio to follow the expert advice, which is for viral testing.”

Aug. 4 – Matt Smith, head of World Rowing, says that “together with the WHO and the IOC, we’re going to follow what they say. We will ask that viral testing is done. If there is a problem, we will react. It’s our moral duty.”

Aug. 10 – WHO changes direction, telling the AP in an email that it “will not issue an `official recommendation’ on viral testing.” It says that “viral testing would not help significantly in the measurement and assessment of water quality.” This statement contradicts WHO’s own published studies showing little to no correlation between the levels of bacterial and viral markers in water – meaning that just testing for bacteria alone tells experts little about the amount of disease-causing viruses in recreational waters. Also on this day, the AP learns 13 American rowers became sick with stomach illness at the World Junior Rowing Championship held the previous four days.

Aug. 12 – IOC rules out viral testing of Rio’s waters. Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi says IOC will be sticking to WHO guidelines recommending only bacterial testing. “WHO is very clear that bacterial testing is what should be followed,” Dubi says at a news conference in Rio.

Aug. 14 – WHO again reverses course. In a telephone interview with the AP, Bruce Gordon, WHO’s top water safety expert, says that while bacterial testing is the global standard, “WHO would support additional viral testing to further inform the risk assessment by authorities and to verify and address concerns raised by independent testing. In this case, measuring coliphages and enteric viruses would be advisable.”

Aug. 15 – International Sailing Federation changes its stance. Dr. Nebojsa Nikolic, the federation’s top medical official, tells the AP that “we will certainly not” do viral testing.

Sept. 1 – Carlos Nuzman, head of Rio’s local Olympic organizing committee, tells the AP in an interview that “we will do” viral tests and says work is already underway to understand how best to carry out the viral analysis.

Sept. 16 – The international swimming federation calls for Olympic officials to carry out viral testing in Rio, according to an internal document obtained by the AP. The federation “and its Sports Medicine Committee strongly recommend that viral tests should also be performed,” it says in a letter to Olympic organizers.

Oct. 16 – WHO again changes course, issuing a statement saying it recommends only bacterial testing for Rio’s Olympics. It says there is “a lack of standardized methods and difficulty interpreting results” for routine testing of viruses. Mario Andrada, spokesman for Rio’s Olympic organizing committee, says they consider that to be “the final instructions for Rio 2016” and that viral testing will not be done.

Oct. 24 – WHO, in an emailed statement, says its comment “not recommending `routine’ viral testing is not analogous to WHO recommending that Brazil do nothing and that WHO is unconcerned with viral pathogens in water. … In fact, we have experts engaged on examining the best monitoring protocols and we will be discussing virus testing at an upcoming meeting in Brazil.”

VIDEO: Aerial Rio Olympic Park progress update

Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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