The President of Botswana Lieutenant General Dr Ian Khama said the IAAF should have given Isaac Makwala the opportunity to run another solo time trial for the 400m final. Khama, who is both passiionate and enthusiastic about sports, said Makwala should have received if his time qualifies him to in the envisaged 400m time trial.
Many around the world felt was unfairly denied an opportunity to win a medal in the 400 m finals. Speaking to BG Sports in an exclusive interview this week, Khama said the IAAF should have allowed Makwala to compete on his own and if his time is better or equalled whoever came first, he should have been awarded a gold medal. “I am not saying take away from the person who did win, but he should have been given his medal. Similarly the same should have been done if his time equalled or better than those who won any medals,” Khama said.
The president argued that there have been situations where athletes record a similar time and the tie resulted in both competitors being awarded the same medals. “IAAF should have followed the same example and allowed him to match the times in those categories.”
However, Khama said his government cannot pursue that matter further as they are not allowed to interfere with the decisions and or sports administration matters. The president praised Makwala for doing extremely well despite all the challenges that he faced. The enthusiastic Khama pointed out that he was speaking as both the number one citizen and a citizen of Botswana. “To put it mildly I was suspicious, I could not understand when, I heard he (Makwala) was unwell and that he was supposed to be on quarantine but I actually saw it on television when he was being prevented from entering the stadium. He was confronted by about 3 or 4 officials and I thought to myself, but if you are worried about someone spreading some virus, you would not want them to mix with anybody, not just athletes , but the more people you come into contact with, the more you are going to spread the virus.” Khama said in such a case one would have expected that if Makwala had anything contagious he would have been confined to a medical centre and a medical ward or bed and limit the contact with anybody but that was not the case. “He said he was feeling well enough to participate in that particular event and he was prevented from doing so.
I think it was an extremely unfortunate decision. I used the word suspicious, but you know the IAAF is a credible organisation, so one would not want to suggest that there was something underhand.” The president said the matter was both badly and incompetently handled and proof of this is when they then allowed Makwala to qualify for the 200 metres running on his own, which was something quite rare. “The fact that they said you can go and qualify , but you will have to do it on your own is an indication to me that clearly they were wrong. If they were right, they would have said to him that sorry your opportunity to qualify is over. So they had him there running on his own allowing him to qualify which I think is the proof.”
Khama said Makwala did extremely well because the others earlier ran when the track was dry, adding that it was not raining when Makwala’s rivals were competing amongst themselves, which motivated them to obviously do better times. “ To run on his own on a wet track when it was raining Makwala did well to eventually qualify under those conditions
Khama conceded that Makwala did not win the 200 metre finals there are usually extenal factors at play.
“I think when you perform be it an athlete or any line of work that you do, there are always factors which can affect your performance day to day, it could be anything, and I think what had happened to him probably affected his performance in the finals, especially when you know the 200 metres is not his favourite race, but rather 400 metres.” Khama is of the opinion that should the IAAF have done the same for the 400m even though they had already ran the finals.
The question that remains regarding the matter is whether the matter is over as far as government is concerned or will it the prusued further. Khama’s response was that when it comes to sports administration, government does not interfere. “The best example is with football and FIFA. Governments are not supposed to or are not able to intervene.The best thing you can do and I know the minister was briefing me was that he and the team of officials we had in London were consistently mounting pressure on the IAAF to appeal and make representation on Makwala’s behalf and at the end of the day there is nothing that the government can do as we have no influence over the IAAF.”
“I think the matter was badly handled and he has been denied an opportunity to excel. As an athlete you are limited by your youth, when you lose an opportunity it’s a disadvantage as he is 30 years old. His career is pretty much coming to an end, but we will support him for as long as he represents this country.” Khama said it is unfortunate that someone from the country had an opportunity to win a medal and that opportunity was taken away from him. “We do not know If he will have another opportunity again, and that is the very sad thing . Those people should know better, the head of IAAF was an athlete himself so he knows what it means for him to be able to participate.”
Quizzed on whether he was serious about building a sports facility in Tutume and naming it after Makwala, Khama said government was intending to do so. Khama said building stadiums around the country came at great costs. “The programme was derailed by budgetary constraints and recessions and so on. Yet we have recognised that we must try as best as possible to provide facilities for our sports people.” What we have basically decided is that we want to put up stadiums, we do not have to build the Gaborone type of stadium everywhere in the country.
“We can put up sports complex or mini stadium enough to take care of athletics, football, volleyball, softball etc, and seating stands for spectators, that we should attempt to do and we have agreed to do that for each constituency.” We were going to start off with 20 areas. “What I had said in Tutume is that the village will be included in the first batch. Whatever we put in Tutume will be made after Makwala in recognition of his courage and determination in the face of the great challenges he came across. I am fully aware that all our athletes are determined and courageous people, but if you think of what he went through and how he qualified for the finals under those circumstances.”