LONDON (Reuters) – Botswana sprinter Isaac Makwala has been cleared to run in the men’s 200 meters at the World Athletics Championships in a dramatic about turn by the global athletics body (IAAF) which had previously barred him for medical reasons.
Makwala was prevented from running in Monday’s opening 200 meters heat and Tuesday’s 400m final after falling victim to an outbreak of sickness that has hit scores of competitors.
The 30-year-old, seen as a leading contender in both events, had insisted he was fit enough to race while the governing International Association of Athletics Federations had said that he had an infectious disease and needed to be quarantined.
But on Wednesday the IAAF said the quarantine period had ended and Makwala could run in the semi-finals in the evening – provided he first achieved the qualifying time of 20.53 seconds in an individual time trial before the main session.
“Given his quarantine period expired at 14:00 hrs today (Wednesday) 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,” said the IAAF statement.
“Makwala is required to run a time of 20.53 or faster to advance to the semi-finals. He will… on his own in lane seven, which was his original lane draw in the opening round.”
The IAAF said it made the decision following a written request from Botswana’s athletics federation. It said that none of the athletes who had already qualified would be expelled to make way for him.
Several Botswana, German, Canadian, Irish and Puerto Rican athletes have been taken ill over the last few days, with some quarantined and others forced to miss their events.
Competition organizers said on Monday that the illnesses were a result of gastroenteritis, but public health officials said on Tuesday that laboratory tests had confirmed two cases of norovirus among approximately 30 victims.
Additional reporting by Gene Cheery; Editing by Catherine Evans and Ken Ferris