Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Team Botswana’s comedy of errors cost Makwala a shot at the 400m medal

The Botswana management team at the ongoing IAAF World Championships is culpable for costing Isaac Makwala his starting position in the finals of the men’s 400m finals.

Amidst a myriad of conspiracy theories bandied about against the IAAF for Makwala’s barring from the race, new information is now cropping up that a string of gaffes and blunders by the team Botswana management may be equally to blame.

According to sources close to the Botswana Athletics association (BAA), the Botswana team management slept on the job.

“If you listen closely to the team management, they do not dispute that Makwala was not feeling well when he was pulled out of the 200m heats. It is common knowledge that they never protested against his ban ahead of the heats. I think they assumed that he would be allowed to compete in the 400m final the next day and when they realised they were wrong, they then questioned the criteria used to bar him,” a source revealed.

The source revealed that as part of the teams competing at the event, team Botswana leaders, and in particular the team manager and medical team, were expected to have been part of a meeting which was called on the 6th of August by the IAAF medical team to sensitise them of the outbreak of the Novovirus.

“They should have known then that should one of our athletes be suspected of having the said virus, he would be quarantined for 48 hours as per the United Kingdom health regulations. Somehow, they either failed or deliberately chose to forget these basic guidelines,” the source continued.

According to the source, had the team management been aware of the above and were not convinced that Makwala was sick, they could have protested his barring from the 200m heats and not waited until they heard he would also not compete in the 400m finals before they could seek clarity on the matter.

“The least they could have done was to have sought to ascertain Makwala’s fitness from an independent Doctor a day after he was barred from the 200m heats. If the Doctor passed him fit, they would have then protested with the IAAF and he would have been allowed to compete,” revealed the source.

The source further revealed that contrary to what Batswana are led to believe, at no point during the saga did team Botswana protest Makwala’s withdrawal from races, and this the team management has also acknowledged.

The source’s version is corroborated by correspondence between the Botswana team and the IAAF.

According to a letter written to the IAAF Medical Commission Chair Doctor Harold Adam on the 8th of August by BAA President Thari Mooketsi, the BAA only wrote to the IAAF seeking ‘clarity as to whether our athlete Isaac Makwala will be competing in the 400m finals tonight (2150).’

In the said letter, which has been passed to the Sunday Standard, at no point did the Botswana team management protest Makwala’s withdrawal, other than ‘demand for a response before the 400m Men’s final.’

Responding to the correspondence from the BAA, IAAF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Olivier Gers confirmed that Makwala ‘has been withdrawn by the IAAF Medical Delegate from tonight’s 400m final.’

In the said letter, Gers shot down assertions by the BAA that Makwala’s withdrawal was based on ‘generalised assumptions that he stays on a hotel where there has been an outbreak of gastroenteritis.’

“Contrary to your assertions, the decisions 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 and recorded in the electronic medical record system of the championships,” Gers responded.

The IAAF CEO further pointed out to the BAA that a copy of Makwala’s medical record had been given to a member of the Botswana medical team staff following the examination.

Despite receiving the response from the IAAF CEO before the men’s 400m final, it has been established that at no point did the Botswana team lodge a protest to ensure Makwala competes.

Reached for comment, Botswana team manager Moses Raphutshe confirmed that they had never protested the barring of Makwala from either the 200m heats or the men’s 400m finals.

Raphutshe, who said it costs around GBP 200 to lodge a protest, confirmed that the BAA never paid the said fee nor written a protest letter.

He further said as the team management, they did not even consider seeking an alternative opinion from an independent doctor to ascertain whether indeed Makwala could have contracted the Novovirus.

On whether they were not aware that Makwala would be isolated for 48 hours if suspected of having contracted the dreaded virus, Raphutshe said they were not aware as ‘it was not even clear to team Botswana how the disease spread.’

Asked whether they attended a meeting for all country team leaders and medical teams called by the IAAF Medical team a day prior to Makwala’s banning to sensitise them on the outbreak of the disease ‘to ensure safety of athletes and others linked to the event,’ the Botswana Team Manager said they sent the team Physiotherapist alone as he himself was busy.

He was however at pains to explain whether the team Physiotherapist gave them a report on the meeting or explained anything about what was discussed at the said meeting.

Instead, Raphutshe said the Physiotherapist, who he claims was with him and BAA President Mooketsi when they wrote a letter to Dr Adam seeking clarity on Makwala’s withdrawal from races, ‘did not know anything about the said Gastroentitis/Novovirus disease.’

On whether at any moment they felt Makwala was not well, Raphutshe said as team Botswana, they could not dispute that the athlete had shown signs of not being well.

“He was not the only athlete to show signs of not being unwell. At least 25 other athletes from other countries did catch the said virus. As team Botswana, we are no disputing Makwala’s sickness but rather the fact that he was withdrawn without our knowledge,” Raphutshe said.

On what could have caused so much confusion, the Botswana team manager said it was all due to communication breakdown as neither the IAAF nor the BAA communicated well with each other.

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