There was more controversy at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in London on Tuesday night, as runner Isaac Makwala was refused entry to compete in the 400m final amid ongoing fears over a norovirus outbreak.
Organizers had banned Makwala from competing in the final on medical grounds, after concerns he had fallen victim to a norovirus outbreak that has affected around 30 people associated with the event.
The Botswana runner had been withdrawn from his 200m heat on Monday after he reportedly vomited.
However, the runner – who is ranked third in the world over the 400m and was widely expected to challenge for a medal in London – insisted he was fit for the 400m final on Tuesday.
On arriving at the London Stadium’s warm-up track before the race he was turned away by officials and security staff.
“They didn’t even want to listen to me. They said ‘no, you can’t run because you are sick.’
“Sometimes I think maybe this is sabotage.” he said, according to standard.co.uk.
Botswana’s Olympic boss, Falcon Sedimo, has backed the runner, calling the decision not to let him compete “disturbing,” the BBC reports.
The team’s doctor had also said that Makwala was “fit, well and ready to run.”
The 400m was eventually won by the favorite, South African Wayde van Niekerk, in a time of 43.98 seconds.
Bahamian Steven Gardiner claimed second, while Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun claimed the bronze.
After the race, there was sympathy from van Niekerk for the banned Makwala.
“It was definitely a heart-breaking moment,” he said.
An angry Makwala later hit out at organizers, accusing them of sabotaging his chances to compete.
“I saw [Makwala] just before the 200m heats and the only thing I could think of was wrapping my arms around him and saying, ‘Get well soon,’ because I wouldn’t wish that on any competitors or anyone. It is such a massive pity.
“Obviously there are a lot of fingers being pointed right now. I would allow him to have his fair opportunity. I wish he could have run,” van Niekerk added, the Times reported.
Speaking on the BBC, 400m legend Michael Johnson was critical of the IAAF, saying the organization had “got it horribly wrong.”
“The elephant in the room is that Wayde van Niekerk is an IAAF favorite, a fan favorite, he’s a favorite of everyone,” the retired American runner said.
“The only person who was his challenger, Isaac Makwala, who was going to double as well [in the 200m and 400m], has been pulled out of both of these races. Conspiracy theories abound.”
The IAAF has defended its actions amid a norovirus outbreak that has hit an official team hotel in London.
It issued a statement saying it regretted the situation, but said it had acted on the advice of health authorities.
“As per UK health regulations, it was requested that [Makwala] be quarantined in his room for 48 hours.
“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.”
The incident is the latest controversy to hit the championships, after American Justin Gatlin claimed victory in the 100m men’s event, defeating Usain Bolt, the hugely popular defending champion and eight-time Olympic gold medalist.