New Delhi: Chaos ruled again at the XIX Commonwealth Games on Thursday when Australian Sally Pearson was disqualified for a false start three hours after crossing the line first in the women’s 100 metres.
The farcical scenes at the Jawarharlal Nehru stadium came after organisers wrestled with two other major headaches on the fifth day of the Games, a pool blamed for making swimmers sick and blocked drains caused by athletes’ condoms.
Pearson was heading out to collect her medal when word came through that the result was being “withheld” to consider an appeal from England, whose Laura Turner was also disqualified for a false start.
The England appeal was upheld and Nigeria’s Osayemi Oludamola was installed as champion. A subsequent Australian appeal was dismissed.
“The most disappointing part is that I was told I was clear, I did my victory lap with the flag,” a sobbing Pearson told reporters. “I was walking out to the medal ceremony and then I was called back. That’s not right.”
The loss of Pearson’s medal left Australia still comfortably top of the medal table with 32 golds ahead of hosts India with 14. England are third with 12 titles, one ahead of Canada.
In the absence of the Commonwealth’s best sprinters, including his compatriot Usain Bolt, Jamaica’s Lerone Clarke swept to victory in the men’s 100m in 10.12 seconds, the slowest winning time in a Commonwealth Games final since 1974.
England’s Mark Lewis-Francis finished second and summed up the topic on many athletes’ minds when he was striking the traditional poses with his silver medal.
“I don’t really want to bite it because I don’t want to get Delhi belly,” he told reporters.
The England team earlier said it had sought and received assurances from organisers about the quality of the water in the Delhi swimming pool after several swimmers fell sick.
“If there is something that is unsafe, you can’t swim in that water. We have to deal with it. It’s a matter we have to deal with the greatest of urgency,” Games Federation chief Mike Fennell told reporters.
While most swimmers dismissed the idea that the pool was responsible for the illness, there was no doubt that plenty of athletes were suffering from it.,”
“It’s happening to everybody in all sports, it’s a place we’re not used to. If you can be comfortable being uncomfortable that’s great,” said Canadian swimmer Brent Hayden after winning gold in the 100 metres freestyle.
Health and security concerns caused several athletes to pull out of the Games and the diarrhoea outbreak was another potential embarrassment to local organisers struggling to turn around the 12-day multi-sport event after a chaotic run-up.
Allegations of corruption, shoddy construction, a filthy athletes’ village, security and health concerns blighted the preparations. Transport issues, technical malfunctions and problems with food have continued the trend into the Games.
In the village, thousands of flushed condoms threaten to choke the drainage system, according to local media reports.
“If that is happening, it shows that there is use of condoms and I think that is a very positive story. Athletes are being responsible,” Fennell said. “We all know that encouraging safe sex is a very important thing to do.”
The Ugandan chef de mission confirmed he and two of his colleagues had been injured when their car ran into a security barrier, a reminder of the massive police and military operation protecting the Games.
Australia’s remorseless acquisition of titles on the cycling track continued and Megan Dunn, who won gold for the second successive day, gave an insight into the focus of the team, which has won 10 of 11 golds at the velodrome.
“Australia has had a dream run, everyone’s in high spirits. We’re like a big family and everyone’s bouncing off each other,” she said after winning the scratch race.
“After winning gold in the points race, I got a pat on the back but they pushed me to do it again today.”
With 42 medals up for grabs, Friday is the busiest day of the Games, which close on 14 October.