By Gene Cherry
LONDON (Reuters) – Botswana’s Isaac Makwala was refused entry to the London Stadium on Tuesday after earlier being withdrawn from the night’s 400 metres final at the World Championships after falling victim to an outbreak of sickness that has hit scores of competitors.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 one of the main challengers to gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa and is a national hero, 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 athletes’ 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Earlier the sport’s governing body the IAAF had issued a statement saying: “Isaac Makwala was withdrawn from the men’s 400 metre (final) due to a medical condition on the instruction of the IAAF Medical Delegate.”
The head of Botswana’s athletics federation, Falcon Sedimo, told the BBC that there had been no communication from the IAAF and that Makwala had been ready to race.
“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,” 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 issued a second statement later on Tuesday saying Makwala had been diagnosed with an “infectious disease” following an examination by a doctor in the warm-up medical centre on Monday and denied the team had not been informed.
“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,” it said.
“The IAAF is very sorry that the hard work and talent of Isaac Makwala won’t be on display tonight but we have to think of the welfare of all athletes.”
Van Niekerk retained his world title in dominant fashion, storming to victory in 43.98 seconds.
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 organisers 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, additonal reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)