Makwala’s 400m Final Snub Hard to Stomach

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  • Inaccuracy in IAAF medical statement strengthens conspiracy theories
  • Jamaican and German athletes showed worse symptoms but were cleared to compete, different rules applied to Makwala


“The IAAF may soon realise they have got this horribly wrong as to why they have chosen to disqualify him. Does this apply to other athletes? If you collapse you are okay but if you vomit you aren’t okay? Has he been advised not to be around other athletes? There is a lot of inconsistency here.And then of course, there is the elephant in the room, Wayde van Niekerk is an IAAF favourite and now his only challenger has been pulled out of both the 200m and 400m? The conspiracy theories will come out of the silence,” said former 400m world champion Michael Johnson as he questioned the IAAF’s decision to bar Mkwala from competing in the 200m heats and the 400m final last week.
Makwala’s 400m final snub caused an uproar as many questioned the athletics body’s reasons for banning him and sanctioning him to a 48 hour quarantine despite only showing “suspicions” of a norovirus that had attacked athletes staying at the Guoman Tower Hotel in London.
Pam Venning, the Head of Medical Services at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, was quoted saying Makwala had shown symptoms of the norovirus and was suspected of contracting the virus after “vomiting over an 18 hour period” and also added that he stayed at the same hotel where the virus outbreak was at its worst.
Venning claimed that an IAAF doctor had informed them that Makwala had vomited at 10pm the previous night and once again the following day, they also claimed that a “history” of Makwala’s conditions made him likely to have been infected.
“There appears to be confusion, the IAAF report said Isaac told the doctor he had vomited at 10pm the previous evening. But Isaac was with me, when we asked Isaac he told us that at no point did he say he had vomited at 10pm,” said Team Botswana doctor Simon O’Brien in contrast to the IAAF medical team’s claims, further demonstrating the inconsistency in the case.
Makwala was never tested, in fact Makwala showed only one symptom of the norovirus and that does not guarantee that he had the virus. The virus has four main symptoms, namely; nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain but Makwala only displayed one symptom but was deemed to be a threat despite not being tested. The big question would be why he was suspected of carrying a virus when he only displayed only one symptom, a symptom that can easily dismissed as a minor illness.
Ironically, Jamaican athlete Elaine Thompson reportedly vomited five times on the day of the women’s 100m final but was still cleared to compete given her name as one of her race category’s big names. German triple jumper Neele Eckhart reportedly collapsed but was allowed to compete prior to his category final.
It aapears the same rules do not apply for all as already mentioned in Johnson’s remarks. Another conspiracy theory is that Wayde Van Nierkek has been ‘knighted’ as the athletics body’s new poster boy following the retirement of Usain Bolt.
The conspiracy theorists are of the view that “those in authority” did not want to see their new poster boy suffer a loss in a race where he was listed by hundreds of betting firms as the favourite to win the race. Makwala was the fastest in the qualifying heats and he was considered a threat to Van Nierkek.
A Makwala victory in the 400m final would have flipped the script on the IAAF’s reported plan to push Van Nierkek to be the face of athletics. There exists a school of thought that Makwala would have upset the betting odds and the succession plan would have been in disarray.
It might seem unfair on Van Nierkek who won his race fair and square but the questions and theories of what might have been will always linger long in the memory of fans who feel robbed of what could have been an epic 400m final.