Makwala 'sabotage' claim overshadows Van Niekerk win

World Championships organisers left feeling sick over norovirus decision

Wayde Van Niekerk
Wayde Van Niekerk wins the 400m in London after rival Isaac Makwala is barred
(Image credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

South African Wayde van Niekerk won gold in the 400m at the World Athletics Championships in London yesterday, but the real drama occurred away from the track as one of his main rivals accused the organisers of "sabotage" after banning him from the stadium.

Isaac Makwala, of Botswana, was "dramatically denied entry to the London Stadium due to a British public health edict" after apparently fallen victim to the stomach bug that has affected a number of athletes and officials, reports the Daily Telegraph.

"Since he was suspected of carrying the norovirus, after an outbreak had swept through the hotel where he was staying, it was decided that he could not risk contaminating other athletes."

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Makwala, however, denied he was ill and arrived at the stadium determined to take his place on the track. Nevertheless, he was turned away by IAAF officials and security staff and was forced to watch the race on TV.

There has been much debate over his absence, but Sean Ingle of The Guardian says barring him seemed the "logical decision given Makwala had been ill before the 200m heats on Monday and these championships have been hit by more than 30 cases of gastroenteritis, particularly to Canadian and German athletes".

Makwala says he was the victim of a conspiracy and others have questioned the IAAF's motives for barring him.

"Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, it made one of the most-hyped races of the championships a desperately flat and one-sided contest, with Van Niekerk barely celebrating his victory," says Ingle.

The last thing the World Championships needed after Usain Bolt's defeat to Justin Gatlin was another anti-climax, says Matt Dickinson of The Times, but that's what it got.

"On a day of vomiting among athletes and staff, Lord Coe should have felt sick at another nightmare of bad publicity," he says. "Headlines that should have been all about the triumphant runner hailed as the sport's new saviour were instead mixed with allegations that the world governing body - guided by Public Health England (PHE) - had overreacted."

Dickinson also says the conspiracy theories do not make much sense as the IAAF would be unwise to undermine one of their biggest events. "This definitely seemed cock-up more than conspiracy. It was a horrible mess of miscommunication, including footage of Makwala being turned away from the London Stadium by heavies as though he was a contagious threat to everyone inside."

Athletes 'quarantined' as stomach bug hits World Championships

08 August

A number of athletes competing at the World Athletics Championships in London have been hit by an outbreak of gastroenteritis at their official hotel.

Thirty people have been affected by the bug, reports the BBC, while The Guardian says an entire floor at the Tower Hotel has been "quarantined".

Among those said to be affected is Isaac Makwala of Botswana, a medal prospect in the 400m, who was given medical dispensation to miss his heat in the 200m after falling ill.

He will still be allowed to compete in the 400m final if he recovers in time, although The Times does not believe that he will make it.

"His lane will be empty for the final after he was ordered to be quarantined to prevent the bug from spreading," it says.

Elaine Thompson, who was surprisingly beaten in the 100m final on Sunday night, was also reportedly sick before the race, says the paper.

Irish 400m hurdler Thomas Barr was pulled out of his event on Monday and Javier Culson, the double world silver medal-winner from Puerto Rico, "was another laid low by the stomach bug as he was eliminated from the heats of the 400m hurdles", says the Times.

They are not the only victims. "Several German and Canadian athletes staying at the Tower Hotel fell ill last week," reports the BBC. "A further 30 Germans due to arrive on Tuesday will be 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 Tower Hotel, which has been working with environmental health officers and the International Association of Athletics Federations, said it was "not the source of the illness". That has also been confirmed by Public Health England, says the BBC.

British athletes have been told to "avoid contact with anyone staying at the affected hotel, either at the stadium or at the adjacent warm-up track", adds the Daily Mail.

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