Isaac Makwala row rumbles on as rival calls time trial 'unfair'

Isaac Makwala was granted a one-off time trial Wednesday, which he successfully completed before going on to qualify for the final of the 200 meters. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF

LONDON -- After two days of acrimony that cast another cloud over these slightly crazy IAAF World Championships, apparent norovirus victim Isaac Makwala was finally allowed to race again on Wednesday. Yet instead of dousing the flames of controversy, it fanned them.

Anger on his part and claims of an unfair advantage from a rival were added to the mix in a complicated story at the track and field event which must have left the IAAF, the world governing body, desperate for some good news.

Makwala was denied the chance to run in the final of his favored 400 meters on Tuesday on medical grounds, sparking outrage from his team -- who insisted he was fit to race -- and an outcry from former champions such as Michael Johnson and Denise Lewis.

He had reported symptoms on Monday similar to those of around 30 other athletes who had gone down with the contagious norovirus and was ordered by the IAAF to spend 48 hours in isolation. The symptoms were disputed by the Botswana team, but the quarantine period expired Wednesday afternoon regardless, Makwala was declared fit and he was granted a solo qualification time trial in the 200 meters.

Cheered loudly by the crowd in heavy rain, Makwala fist-bumped a kit volunteer, made the required time and celebrated with some press-ups. Just over two hours later he was second in his semifinal heat, securing a place in the final. That could have been the end of the matter, but then came the athletes' postrace media duties.

Makwala initially thanked the IAAF in a TV interview after his semifinal for letting him run, but his feelings toward the governing body did not remain positive for long.

"I put everything on God after what happened yesterday," he said, according to the IAAF's own news service. "I'm still running with my heart broken.

"I wish the IAAF had given me the decision to run the 400 meters first. I was ready to run. I don't know who made the decision. 400 meters is my reason for training.

"I'm running with anger. 400 meters is my race. But thanks to the crowd, they were amazing."

Most of Makwala's fellow sprinters seemed to share his sentiment, including Jamaica's Yohan Blake -- who was eliminated from the 200 meters and complained of a thigh injury -- and the fastest man in the semifinals, Isiah Young of the United States, who ran 20.12 seconds.

They were impressed with Makwala producing two good performances in quick succession, expressed sympathy for his 400-meter plight, and wished him well in the final.

But U.S. sprinter Ameer Webb, who also qualified for the final, spoke out against what he saw as an unfair advantage of Makwala's "time trial" style heat.

"I am happy for him from an athlete's standpoint, but I wish I could have run a prelim by myself knowing the time I had to beat was 20.53 seconds," Webb said.

"I feel like: unfair. But it is what it is and I have to line up against him. I feel it is a bit of an advantage if you know you've got to run 20.53 and you are talking to the No. 1 guy in the 200 meters [this season]."

Asked if Makwala having to perform with so little time in between his heat and semifinal was tough, Webb was just as firm. "Not by yourself," he said. "You've got to add in the fact that you have no pressure from the outside. It's just you and the track. I mean, I can run those times as well."

It is unlikely to end there. The final of the 200 meters is Thursday and victory -- or even a podium place -- for Makwala would only shine an even brighter light on all that has gone before.

Track and field entered these championships against a backdrop of doping and corruption. The IAAF has attempted to right some wrongs, including holding ceremonies to give medals to athletes cheated by competitors caught via retroactive doping tests.

The IAAF attempted to stop Makwala from competing on advice from the public health board in England. Yet even when it relented, it did not solve the problem.

Thursday's 200-meter final could provide the full stop the IAAF needs on this saga but, like Makwala, it may yet run and run.