Botswanan runner barred from race at World Championships after getting sick the day before in puzzling scene
LONDON (Reuters) – Botswana’s Isaac Makwala was refused entry to the London Stadium on Tuesday after earlier being withdrawn from the night’s 400 meters final at the World Championships after falling victim to an outbreak of sickness that has hit scores of competitors.
The 30-year-old, who was considered as one of the main challengers to favorite Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa and is a national hero in his country, had also been ordered to withdraw from Monday’s opening round of the 200 metres.
Makwala insisted he felt well and wanted to race but when he attempted to go through the dedicated athlete’s entrance an official and security personnel barred his way and he was led away.
Earlier the sport’s governing body the IAAF had issued a statement saying: “Isaac Makwala was withdrawn from the men’s 400 meter (final) due to a medical condition on the instruction of the IAAF Medical Delegate.”
Video was captured of Makwala attempting to go through the stadium’s athletes entrance, only to be turned away:
Exclusive: Isaac Makwala is blocked from the athletes’ entrance at the London Stadium. He’s being escorted to IAAF office #London2017 pic.twitter.com/c5FjfNxQlG
— Dan Salisbury-Jones (@dsj_itv) August 8, 2017
The head of Botswana’s athletics federation, Falcon Sedimo, told the BBC that there had been no communication from the IAAF and that Makwala was ready to race.
“There have been no medical tests at all, it’s just generalized assumptions because of the outbreak of sickness and he has just one of those symptoms,” he said in a live interview after making his way to the BBC gantry to try to get his message out.
“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.
“I met Makwala this afternoon the indications were that he was ready and raring to go.”
The IAAF did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for clarification.
The chairman of the Botswana National Sports Council, Solly Reikeletseng, told the country’s Mmegi newspaper they had launched an appeal against the IAAF’s decision.
“We are in a meeting with the technical commission. We wrote a letter and we will push till the fat lady sings,” Reikeletseng was quoted as saying.
Earlier on Tuesday, Makwala had told the BBC that he had felt fit to race in the 200 metres on Monday and felt “ready” for the 400 metres final.
“I was not that sick,” he said. “I just vomited. Like any other athlete, I vomit… I could have run because I did my warm-up well and I did everything well. I was ready to run.”
He added that he was heartbroken on Monday when he was pulled from the 200 and had been left in the dark about the reasons for his withdrawal.
“They say they are waiting for the medical results but I don’t know because they didn’t test me. I don’t know what, which medical results they are waiting for.
“This is bad. I felt heartbroken yesterday. I was ready for this, I worked hard for this. So I feel like sabotaging or something … I don’t know because I don’t have the full information about this.”
He did not specify in what way he felt he had been sabotaged and the IAAF did not respond specifically to Makwala’s comments when contacted by Reuters.
The sport’s governing body said it had been working with Public Health England to contain the outbreak and had issued guidelines to teams and their doctors.
Several Botswana, German, Canadian, Irish and Puerto Rican athletes have been taken ill over the last few days, with some effectively put into quarantine and others forced to miss their events.
Competition organizers said on Monday that the illnesses were a result of gastroenteritis, but public health officials said on Tuesday that laboratory tests have confirmed two cases of norovirus among approximately 30 illness victims.
Reporting by Gene Cherry; writing by Brian Homewood, additional reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Toby Davis
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