When food poisoning has impacted sport

The 1995 Rugby World Cup final and Lasagnagate spring to mind

BY Newstalk 16:43 Friday 3 March 2017, 16:43 3 Mar 2017

Rugby World Cup final South Africa vs New Zealand 24/6/1995 Jamie Joseph of New Zealand is tackled by the South African defence ©INPHO/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy wasn't the only player to feel sick during his first round  on Thursday at the WGC Mexico Championship. Henrik Stenson was 3-over through 11 holes when he withdrew with a stomach virus.

However, McIlroy was able to finish out carding an impressive round of 68 which leaves him in a tie for seventh, which is only one shot off the leading pack.

This isn’t the first time we have seen food poisoning have an effect on top sporting events...

The 1995 Rugby World Cup Final

South Africa won the game 15-12 against New Zealand. After the match, various allegations were made surrounding the lead up to the final. Many of the New Zealand players were suffering from food poisoning 48 hours prior to the game, which affected their performance in the final.

New Zealand coach Laurie Mains alleged a mysterious waitress known as "Suzie" had deliberately poisoned the All Blacks' water in the week before the final. During the match New Zealand players could be seen throwing up on the sidelines. Later interviews with some of All Blacks seemed to indicate that intentional food poisoning was unlikely, as team member Eric Rush said that they went "to the Pizza Hut down the road" spontaneously.

However, in fact it was players such as Rush who left the hotel and went to Pizza Hut who actually avoided illness. An intentional act would have required considerable confidential intelligence and luck that seems very unlikely. There has never been any conclusive evidence of any collusion to intentionally give the All Blacks food poisoning, although they were clearly ill. Rush and others maintain that if the test had been scheduled a day earlier, it is questionable whether New Zealand would have been able to field a full team at all.

Tottenham vs West Ham on the final day of the 2005/06 season

Tottenham's 2-1 loss at West Ham has always been shrouded in controversy with Spurs' squad claiming that they too suffered food poisoning the night before. All they needed to do was match bitter rivals Arsenal's result that weekend to secure a Top Four place and Champions League football.

Jermaine Jenas who was part of the Tottenham team, later wrote in a Yahoo column: "As a member of the Spurs team beaten at Upton Park in the infamous 'Lasagnagate' match on the last day of the 2005-2006 season, when the bulk of our squad went down with food poisoning, you could say this derby will always have a special resonance with me - as it will for anyone who experienced that day."

"The silly thing is that for a game against West Ham we would have normally just stayed at home because it was a local derby, but because it was such a crucial game the club put us in a hotel because they wanted us to be together. Lasagne and spaghetti bolognese were on the menu, we ate, and then in the middle of the night we started dropping like flies. It was mayhem." 

Words: Robert Fanning


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