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‘Sickening’ moment exposes stupid rule

OPINION

THERE'S been outrage from all corners of the world after the horror of Callum Hawkins' collapse during the men's marathon at the Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

The Scot was leading the race when just 2km from the finish his body gave up on him. He stumbled into the gutter where he clung to a railing on a Gold Coast bridge, crumpled in a heap and unable to get up.

Distressed viewers cried out for somebody to help him during the sickening scenes - but medical attention didn't immediately arrive. Social media went into meltdown and commentators asked what everyone was thinking - why was Hawkins left to suffer alone on the asphalt as helpless spectators just metres away were told to keep clear?

It's been reported Hawkins asked not to be assisted because he knew any help would see him disqualified and cost him a chance at a medal. In this case, bravery out-muscled common sense.

Gold Coast 2018 chief executive Mark Peters responded to the outcry by saying officials were only able to provide assistance when Hawkins eventually requested it. He said medical staff had been placed strategically every 500m along the marathon route and had radios to respond to medical aid requests when they were made.

Medical staff didn’t intervene because Hawkins asked them not to.
Medical staff didn’t intervene because Hawkins asked them not to.

But while Peters defended the decision for medical staff to hang back from Hawkins until he asked for help, there's a significant flaw in that justification.

Organisers should not have let Hawkins be the one to make that call in the first place.

The TV broadcast and photos of Hawkins' distressing collapse left no one in any doubt his health was at significant risk. Aussie track great Tamsyn Lewis knew the rules about disqualification but pleaded with officials to step in anyway while commentating for Channel 7, while women's marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe and Olympian Andrew Butchart echoed those thoughts.

 

Hawkins was not in a state to make decisions for himself. His desperation to win a medal was overpowering his concern for his own wellbeing.

There was no doubt Hawkins was putting his own health at risk when he shouldn't have been allowed to. Organisers should have overruled him.

BBC writer Tom English put it perfectly. "He was allowed to do it, that's the thing that has angered many. Hawkins was allowed to make the decision to carry on when clearly he was incapable of rational thought," English wrote.

"He needed protecting from his own competitive intensity. He needed a medic to step in and say, 'Callum, there will be other days, but this one is done.'

"A boxer doesn't get to make a decision about boxing on if he's been battered all over the ring. A rugby player doesn't get to make it if he's been concussed in a tackle. They've suffered brain injuries. They need to be taken out of the firing line."

The Scot was desperate for a medal.
The Scot was desperate for a medal.

Hawkins chose to keep himself in that firing line - but given his condition, he shouldn't have been the one making that choice.

Chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland Paul Bush voiced his concerns with how the incident was handled.

"We've formally raised the situation with the organisers," Bush said. "We have some concerns. The concern is the amount of time it took (for medics to get to Hawkins).

"We're fully aware of the IAAF rules in terms of how the athlete has to declare himself unfit to compete, but he was in trouble for a long time and fell twice. We would have hoped that people would have got to him quicker because the second time he fell he was in serious trouble. We were extremely worried."

So was everyone else.

Bronze medallist Robbie Simpson said he can "understand why he didn't want help" - a fact all sports fans can comprehend - but sometimes the results-driven aspect of professional sport needs to take a back seat, and it was the responsibility of organisers to make sure this happened on Sunday.

It didn't.

Thankfully, Hawkins - who was taken to Gold Coast University Hospital - is recovering well. The marathon is the most gruelling event in athletics but the Scot suffered more than he should have.

Topics:  callum hawkins commonwealth games 2018 michael shelley


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