The IAAF World Championships in London have been hit by a norovirus outbreak, with at least 30 track and field athletes and support staff potentially affected and two cases confirmed as the virus. This got particularly controversial Tuesday when Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, a top 400-meter medal contender, was prevented from competing by IAAF officials thanks to previously vomiting. Here are more details on Makwala’s ban from The Daily Mail:
Footage, filmed on a smartphone, shows the competitor speaking to officials at the fenced entrance – with the Botswania athlete not being allowed to pass.
He told the BBC earlier in the day that he was ‘not that sick’ and he was ‘ready to run’ because he had ‘just vomited’.
The global athletics body, IAAF, said: ‘Isaac Makwala was withdrawn from the men’s 400 metre final due to a medical condition on the instruction of the IAAF Medical Delegate.
‘Any further questions should be referred to the BOT team.’
Makwala said: ‘I was not that sick. 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.
Banning Makwala took plenty of criticism, including from women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe and former 400m world record holder Michael Johnson:
Radcliffe said on the BBC: “He’s planning on staying in his lane. He’s not planning on coming into close contact with anybody else.
“What this does is it sends out a dangerous message now because other athletes that get ill will certainly not be giving away any sign of that.
“They will be hiding it and that’s then dangerous to their health because maybe they need medical support.
“They might be really, really sick, but they’re certainly not going to be telling anyone now after they’ve seen the treatment that he’s just had.”
Former 400m world record holder Michael Johnson added: “I think that this highlights a lack of preparation for this sort of thing and a lack of good decision-making on the fly.
“These sorts of things will happen. If it’s not this, the next time it’s something else, and you have to have people who are able to make good decisions and responsible decisions on the fly and in the moment.
But perhaps the most interesting criticism came from a Brazilian media member, Alex Pussieldi, who questioned how this would have been perceived if it happened in his country:
40 atletas infectados com Norovirus em Londres, ah se fosse no Brasil, a imprensa britânica estaria nos fritando…. #London2017
— Coach Alex Pussieldi (@alexpussieldi) August 8, 2017
— aaron bauer (@ABauer_ATR) August 9, 2017
That’s a valid point, especially considering the intense discussion of health dangers in Brazil ahead of last year’s Olympics. And we’ve seen plenty of critical coverage of illnesses that have happened during athletic competitions in less-developed countries before, such as the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India and the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico.
Of course, some of that discussion is perfectly valid too, and there are some particularly troubling things to discuss in some of those countries (such as bacteria concerns in the sailing venues in Rio). Still, this London outbreak shows that illness can strike anywhere, especially when you have a bunch of athletes living in close quarters. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the organizers or the hotel (in fact, an Express report says “An investigation has ruled out the hotel itself as the source of the illness.”), but it’s proof that health concerns can pop up in sports competitions regardless of where they’re held. And media members should keep that in mind.