IAAF World Championships 2017

Athletics: Star athletes beset by runs

Isaac Makwala of Botswana before the start of his 400m heat at the IAAF World Championships in London last Saturday. He was given medical dispensation to withdraw from the 200m heats on Monday after he vomited in the call room.
Isaac Makwala of Botswana before the start of his 400m heat at the IAAF World Championships in London last Saturday. He was given medical dispensation to withdraw from the 200m heats on Monday after he vomited in the call room.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Competitors' hotel hit hard by virus, zone is quarantined as illness leads to withdrawals

LONDON • The London hotel at the centre of an outbreak of sickness that has struck down scores of competitors at the World Athletics Championships insisted yesterday it was not the source of the illness.

Several athletes from Jamaica, Botswana, Germany, Canada, Ireland and Puerto Rico staying at the Tower Hotel, near the Tower Bridge, have been taken ill over the last few days, with some put into effective 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 yesterday that laboratory tests have confirmed two cases of norovirus among approximately 30 illness victims.

Norovirus, sometimes called "the winter vomiting bug", is easily spread, partly because the virus can survive for several days outside the body, Britain's National Health Service says.

It advises sufferers to avoid contact with others for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed.

Tower Hotel, used annually as the base for the London Marathon, said in a statement: "We have worked collaboratively with the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) and the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) to investigate the origins of the illness and can confirm that the hotel was not the source.

"We have followed strict hygiene protocol, ensuring that those affected are not in contact with other guests and all public areas have been thoroughly sanitised."

At least two athletes who were due to compete were forced to withdraw from their events and Jamaican Elaine Thompson - the Olympic 100m and 200m champion - is understood to have vomited before Sunday's 100m final, in which she surprisingly finished fifth.

Thompson said after her race: "I actually threw up before I went out there. I wouldn't say that affected the race. I threw up a few minutes before going to the call room. We are all human beings. We do it in training."

Botswana's Isaac Makwala was given medical dispensation to withdraw from the 200m heats after throwing up in the call room on Monday.

Ireland's 400m hurdler Thomas Barr was also affected.

"I'm gutted to have to withdraw from the semi-final. My whole year has been focused on the world championships. To not be able to go out and compete for Ireland is beyond disappointing," he said.

Usain Bolt, who is unaffected by illness but has a slight muscular pain after winning bronze in the 100m final, has confirmed that he will run in the 4x100m relay heats on Saturday.

"We'll see, we haven't done any baton changes as yet with the guys, but I feel we are ready," he said.

"I have talked to (100m semi-finalist) Julian Forte a little bit. I haven't really talked to the youngsters so we'll see when it comes to the baton changes, but I'm always excited to run relays and we see what the guys are prepared and ready to do."

Yohan Blake is the only other experienced member of Jamaica's sprint relay pool to have won medals at either the World Championships or Olympics.

"Physically I am all right, there is a little bit of pain, but nothing a massage can't cure. I'm taking it easy," Bolt added of his condition.

The Jamaican superstar clocked 9.95sec in the 100m final last Saturday but was beaten by Americans Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Star athletes beset by runs'. Print Edition | Subscribe