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August 8, 2017

Contagion: The Isaac Makwala Saga

Botswanan 400m superstar Isaac Makwala has had an interesting trip to London.

Perhaps the only man on the planet with the chops to challenge all-but-assured-400m-World-Champ Wayde van Niekerk, Makwala finds his chances of competing at all up against IAAF policy forbidding violently ill, contagious athletes from toeing the line.

Makwala is one of several athletes–many staying in the same hotel–who have contracted gastroenteritis, which is a fancy word for food poisoning.

Track’s governing body has forbade Makwala (and other afflicted athletes, as well) from competing any further, a decision he is actively contesting.

Track Twitter is covering the situation as it unfolds, and grows stranger and stranger. The current IAAF stance is that Makwala–and any similarly ill athlete–is to be quarantined for 48 hours following the last known bout of vomitus.

The IAAF has released the following statement:

Isaac Makwala (BOT) has been withdrawn by the IAAF Medical Delegate – click here – from tonight’s 400m final after the athlete was diagnosed with an infectious disease on Monday.

As per UK health regulations, it was requested that he be quarantined in his room for 48 hours, a period which ends at 14:00hrs tomorrow (9 Aug).

These procedures are recommended by Public Health England and were clearly explained to the teams in writing on Sunday (6 Aug) and in person to the Botswanan delegation, a member of which was present with many other representatives of teams at a meeting that took place at the Guoman Tower Hotel on Sunday.

The decision to withdraw him from the 200m heats last night and the 400m final today was made on the basis of a medical examination conducted in the warm-up medical centre by a qualified doctor on Monday (7 Aug) and recorded in the electronic medical record system of the championships. A copy of this medical record was given to a member of the BOT team medical staff following the examination.

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.

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.

UPDATE (Aug. 9th)

Makwala was given the go-ahead to vie for a spot in the 200m semi-finals, after being barred from entering the event’s heats. The only stipulation? He had to run a qualifying time-trial heat, completely solo, from lane seven, in a chilly rain. If he ran faster than 20.53, he’d be in. What happened, you ask?

Track Twitter reactions and updates to the first day’s saga:


It is raining in London but it appears that Makwala will be attempting to run a 200m time trial in an effort to try and get into the 200m semifinal. He missed the heats due to the food poisoning. This is still wild.

The IAAF later announced that Makwala has been medically cleared to compete and will be running a solo 200 in Lane 7 and if he runs 20.53 or faster then he will have a place in the semifinals. This will reportedly not affect any other of the semifinalists and their respective lane drawings.

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