Canadian track team decimated by stomach virus at worlds

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LONDON — Canada is moving some of its athletes into new accommodations at the world track and field championships to avoid a stomach bug.

Athletes still to arrive in town will stay at a different hotel than the one in central London, where nine Canadian athletes and staff members have become ill, Canadian team doctor Paddy McCluskey said Tuesday.

And several Canadian athletes have been moved to higher floors in the hotel.

“We’ve been able to accommodate that for not everyone, but for a number of people,” McCluskey said on moving to higher rooms. “Unfortunately the hotel has a limited number of beds available, there’s over 900 guests here. . . and so the logistics are that they’re running out of space in general.”

Canadian Eric Gillis dropped out of Sunday’s marathon around the 30-kilometre mark a couple of days after falling ill, and sprinter Aaron Brown said he’d been quarantined after catching the norovirus, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, a low-grade fever and abdominal pain.

“The last two days have been better for us in terms of new cases, so I’m really hopeful we’re coming out the other end,” McCluskey said. “You always have to be really diligent about these kinds of things, maintain strict hand washing, and so we’re doing our best in that. But I’m really hopeful that we’re through the worst of it.”

The outbreak was another bad break for the Canadian team which lost stars Andre De Grasse and Derek Drouin to injury.

An estimated 30 people from several teams including Canada, Germany, Ireland and Botswana, who are staying at the Tower Hotel have been ill. The Canadian team’s floors have been hit particularly hard.

Tower Hotel said in a statement: “We have worked collaboratively with the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) and the IAAF 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 sanitized.”

McCluskey said that public health is confident it’s not the food or water in the hotel.

“And I’ve been satisfied with their explanation about that. (But) I think the hotel would agree that there’s a number of people in the hotel that are affected,” he said, adding there’s a difference between the location of the virus, and the source.

“I don’t believe the hotel is the source,” he said.

Medal favourite Isaac Makwala of Botswana pulled out of his 200-metre heat on Monday night, but later said he had food poisoning. Makwala was expected to be the main challenger to Wayde van Niekerk in both the 200 and the 400. And Ireland’s Thomas Barr pulled out of 400 hurdles after catching the stomach virus.

Canadians yet to arrive in London include race walkers, and runners in the women’s 5,000 metres.

Norovirus is tough on athletes’ bodies, McCluskey said, because it causes fluid and electrolyte loss.

“And independent of the symptoms, those can have an impact on fatigue and the zip and energy that you feel,” he said. “We have taken precautions and measures to allow people to try to replenish those electrolytes.

“Athletes that have been affected have been performing better than expected, to be fair. And so we’ve been happy with that.”

Brown recovered to run his heat of the 200, but was disqualified for a lane violation. Afterward he described the stomach virus saying “I was in my room the entire day in the dark like I was a vampire.

“It hit at night, couldn’t sleep, aching stomach. Felt like the movie ‘Alien,’ when they breed the alien and the thing’s running around inside. It felt like that. I was holding my stomach the entire night.”

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