Decision to turn away 400m star ‘disturbing’

Media playback is not supported on this device

‘Not being allowed to race would be devastating’

Athletics chiefs have been criticised for denying a medal favourite entry to London Stadium amid attempts to control an outbreak of norovirus at the World Athletics Championships.

Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, 30, had hoped to run in Tuesday’s 400m final.

He was earlier withdrawn from the race on medical grounds by officials from the sport’s governing body, the IAAF.

“The manner in which this decision was arrived at is disturbing,” said Botswana Olympic boss Falcon Sedimo.

Public Health England says 30 athletes and support staff have been affected by sickness at the Tower Hotel in London – though the hotel is not the source of the outbreak.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has insisted it gave clear communication to the Botswana delegation that Makwala would not be allowed to run following a medical examination.

But Botswana Olympic Committee CEO Sedimo told BBC Sport: “There has been no official communication, no formal communication from the IAAF at all. We found out from the media that he could not take part and he is heartbroken.

“There have been no medical tests at all, it’s just generalised assumptions because of the outbreak of sickness and he has just one of those symptoms.”

Botswana medical team member Simon O’Brien said Makwala showed no symptoms of the bug and blamed “poor communication” from the IAAF for Makwela missing the race.

“He’s fit, he’s very well, he’s prepared to run, and he’s just being kept away by the IAAF,” he added.

Makwala had been considered the main threat to Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk in the event. The South African went on to defend his world 400m title with a dominant display on Tuesday evening.

He earlier told BBC Sport he would be “devastated” to miss out as he was fit to race – despite having also been withdrawn from Monday’s 200m heats.

But when he attempted to pass through the athletes’ entrance to the stadium, an official and security personnel barred his way.

Botswana officials said they had received no explanation as to why Makwala was not allowed entry and had not been told to keep the runner in quarantine.

Some athletes have questioned the decision. Former British 400m runner Dai Greene tweeted: “I was really ill in the build up [to the 2010 Commonwealth Games] in Delhi as were so many others! But nobody stopped us racing or tested us.”

After winning gold, Van Niekerk said: “I would love him [Makwala] to have his fair opportunity. I believe he would have done very very well at these Championships. I’ve got so much sympathy. I really wish I could give him my medal.”

What does the IAAF say?

The IAAF said Makwala’s absence was “a sad case” but it is insistent it has communicated with the Botswana delegation each step of the way. It says its medical staff examined Makwala, who demonstrated symptoms of having contracted a virus.

Notes taken by a doctor showed the athlete had been vomiting over an 18-hour period – though Botswana’s O’Brien believes a mistake may have been made as Makwala was with him during some of this period and showed no symptoms.

Pam Venning, head of medical at the IAAF, told BBC Sport: “I have to trust my doctors.”

She said Public Health England guidance was to place athletes in quarantine to reduce the risk of infecting many more competitors at the championships and added: “My role is to ensure the healthcare of all the athletes here and it’s a very infectious and very virulent disease.”

A separate statement from governing body later clarified: “The team doctor, team leader and team physio had been informed following the medical examination that the athlete should be quarantined for 48 hours and would therefore be missing the 400m final on Tuesday.”

Venning also said “all the other teams” with affected athletes had adhered to IAAF instructions.

Who else has been affected?

Several German and Canadian athletes staying at the Tower Hotel fell ill last week.

A further 30 Germans due to arrive on Tuesday were moved to other hotels.

German triple jumper Neele Eckhardt collapsed but was well enough to compete on Saturday, and took part in Monday’s final.

The Ireland team, who are also staying at the hotel, have confirmed that one athlete – 400m hurdler Thomas Barr – has been affected.

The Tower Hotel said investigations conducted with environmental health officers and the athletics governing body had shown the hotel was “not the source of the illness”. That has also been confirmed by Public Health England.

Germany's Neele Eckhardt finished last in Monday's triple jump final<!–

Germany’s Neele Eckhardt finished last in Monday’s triple jump final


Michael Johnson, four-time Olympic gold medallist

The IAAF may soon realise they have got this horribly wrong as to why they have chosen to disqualify Makwala.

Does this apply to other athletes? If you collapse, you are OK but if you vomit you aren’t OK?

There is a lot of inconsistency here.

And then of course, there is the elephant in the room – Wayde van Niekerk’s only challenger has been pulled out of both the 200m and 400m. The conspiracy theories will come out of the silence.

How do you catch norovirus?

Michelle Roberts, BBC Health

Stomach bugs that cause diarrhoea and vomiting are very common and easy to catch. You can get them from eating contaminated food or through contact with people who have got gastroenteritis.

If that infected person doesn’t wash their hands before handling your food or touching objects and surfaces that you then touch, there’s a good chance you could get sick too.

A person with gastroenteritis is most infectious from when their symptoms start until a couple of days after all their symptoms have gone.

Decision to turn away 400m star ‘disturbing’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *