April 15, 2024

Organisers of the Boat Race have contacted Oxford to seek further clarity on the cause of the sickness bug that struck down several members of their men’s team.

Cambridge triumphed in the women’s and men’s Blue races on Saturday following an unusually high-profile buildup to the historic event, after River Action UK found dangerously high levels of E coli bacteria on the River Thames course.

In the aftermath of their defeat Lenny Jenkins, the Oxford seven seat, and the cox, William Denegri, drew attention to the illness that hit Oxford’s preparation and performance.

“We’ve had a few guys go down pretty badly with E coli strain,” Jenkins told the BBC on Saturday. “This morning I was throwing up … It would have been ideal not to have so much poo in the water.”

A statement released by organisers on Sunday morning said: “The Boat Race is aware of Leonard Jenkins’ comments about a sickness bug affecting their preparations this week. We’re not in a position to speculate about the causes of this sickness bug but we have contacted Oxford University Boat Club to seek further clarity.”

Leonard Jenkins, third from the right in the near Oxford boat, claimed he vomited on the morning of the race. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Before the event River Action said Thames Water discharged sewage into the Greater London area of the river for 1,914 hours from the start of 2024 up to 26 March.

River Action’s chief executive, James Wallace, said it was a “tragic situation when elite athletes are issued with health guidance ahead of a historic race on the capital’s river.”

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Thames Water has blamed high rainfall for the problem, but the government is under increasing pressure to act. Renationalisation of Thames Water is not being ruled out following shareholders’ refusal to release investment in a standoff with the industry regulator.

“It’s obviously not a great situation,” said the Cambridge men’s coach, Rob Baker, after his team’s victory on Saturday. “We’d like cleaner waterways, I think that’s fair to say. We’d like to not have such a risk for our athletes.”

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