LONDON – Botswana star Isaac Makwala will be able to compete in the 200 metres at the world championships in London after the IAAF decided to allow him to run a solo time-trial on Wednesday after missing Monday’s heats.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) offered the fastest man in the world this year another chance, as his quarantine period for the highly contagious norovirus had expired.
The 30-year-old had been barred from running in Tuesday’s 400m final after being diagnosed with the stomach ailment on Monday – which under English health recommendations requires 48 hours’ quarantine.
This had provoked a row between the sport’s governing body and the Botswana athletics bosses, with the former insisting it was sad, but had to follow the recommendations from Public Health England, while the latter said he was perfectly fine to run.
Makwala subsequently turned up at the warm-up track ahead of the final but was turned away, with the athlete angrily accusing the IAAF or “the British” of sabotage – as he was seen as the main threat to South Africa’s 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk.
As it is, Makwala will still get a chance to deny Van Niekerk the 200m/400m world double – which American legend Michael Johnson achieved in 1995 – when he runs alone in a bid to reach the semi-finals, which are later on Wednesday.
“Given his quarantine period expired at 14:00hrs (1300GMT) today (9 August) and following a medical examination which has declared him fit to compete, we have agreed under our existing rules that assuming he makes the qualification time, he will run in the 200m semi-final round this evening,” read the statement from the IAAF.
“Makwala is required to run a time of 20.53 or faster to advance to the semi-finals. He will run at 18:40hrs (7.40pm South African time) this evening on his own in lane 7, which was his original lane draw in the opening round.
“No athletes already qualified for the semi-final will be adversely affected.”
Makwala, who has become a genuine medal contender on the world stage late in his career, had fallen victim to the virus which swept one of the hotels hosting athletes and their support staff.
Public Health England revealed that 30 athletes and support staff had been affected with two cases confirmed as being the norovirus bug.
Norovirus is often caught through close contact with someone carrying the disease, or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.
While Botswana officials claimed their athlete was fit as a fiddle, the IAAF issued a statement late on Tuesday to support their decision, saying he had been examined by a doctor and diagnosed with the illness.
Makwala, who earlier this year became the first athlete in history to run a sub-20sec 200m and a sub-44sec 400m on the same day, had been left steaming.
“I am heartbroken,” he said. “I have waited. I feel it is like sabotage.
“I’m not sure if it is the IAAF or the British. I am feeling good to run tonight.”
However, IAAF president Sebastian Coe, writing in Wednesday’s Evening Standard, said he sympathised with him, but ultimately the IAAF’s primary concern was for all the athletes and their health.
“The medical teams made a judgment after medical examinations, and the medical team is very clear that this athlete was showing some quite serious symptoms that had been happening for a period of time, and needed to be removed from competition,” wrote the 60-year-old athletics legend, who recalled how he and fellow competitors were sent home from the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh because of a bronchial infection.
“No one from the IAAF is showing a lack of empathy with Isaac, far from it, in fact.
“We have massive empathy for him as he worked so hard to get here.”