Handball: IHF investigates Slovenia's 'food poisoning' claims at World Championship in Egypt

Ahram Online , Wednesday 27 Jan 2021

Egyptian health ministry official vehemently denied Slovenia's claims, saying that records of the hotels' makeshift clinics showed that 'no cases with symptoms of gastrointestinal infection were recorded'

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The International Handball Federation (IHF) announced late on Tuesday the opening of an investigation regarding claims made by a Slovenian handball official that his team had suffered food poisoning ahead of facing hosts Egypt at the World Championship, despite not receiving any official complaint.

“Despite the fact that no official claim had been submitted by the Slovenian delegation — neither on the day of the match or the day before — the IHF opened an investigation and asked the respective governmental body in charge of food quality control to give a statement and investigate [the incident] to know if this was indeed food poisoning,” reads a statement on the official website of the IHF.

The Pharaohs booked their place in the last eight on Sunday after rebounding from four goals at halftime down to Slovenia to snatch a 25-25 draw and finish second in their main-round group behind leaders Sweden. 

They are set to face World Champions Denmark on Wednesday in a decisive encounter.

Goran Cvijic, the general secretary of the Handball Federation of Slovenia, heavily criticized Egypt's hosting of the tournament, accusing organisers of "negligence."

“As many as twelve Players of our national team were poisoned with food in the 24 hours before our last match in Egypt. Well, it wasn't a 'virus'. The boys screamed in pain, vomited, and rushed to the toilets as if their lives were at stake,” Cvijic said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian health ministry official vehemently denied Slovenia's claims, saying that records of the hotels' makeshift clinics showed that “no cases with symptoms of gastrointestinal infection were recorded or monitored from the start of the tournament until today.”

The IHF said in Tuesday’s statement that it sent a letter addressed to the Slovenian head of delegation and the president of the National Federation following the first statement, providing the findings of a report received from the Ministry of Health.

“The report included the following facts: In the evening after the match against Egypt, at 21:00 CAT, one player of the Slovenian team was reported to the clinic in the hotel with a claim of stomach problems and diarrhoea. According to him, it was the first time he suffered from sickness. In the clinic, he was provided with medication to treat this condition,” the IHF’s statement explained.

“Following this event, the clinic doctor in the hotel received the head of the delegation, who claimed that 14 players had the same problems as well as players in other teams. He also claimed that this is a kind of food poisoning. The clinic doctor, as well as the Ministry of Health’s medical commission chairman subsequently asked for the players to be checked medically to know the reason for this condition and to be able to treat them. The team doctor refused to let the players get checked.”

“The clinic doctor also offered to transfer the players to the hospital and, again, the team doctor refused."

"We would like to emphasise at this point that any medical help which was offered, including any medicine for treatment, has been refused by the team doctor,” the statement added.

Furthermore, the IHF stated that the Egyptian health ministry also organised a meeting with all teams to check if there had been similar cases, adding that none of the teams reported cases of this kind in this meeting. 

“The IHF did not receive any official complaint from any of the participating teams related to the food served during the course of the event. On the contrary, the Belarus delegation, who were accommodated in the same hotel and shared the same buffet in Cairo’s Marriott Hotel from the main round onwards, had no issues of any kind."

"The chief of the Belarus national handball team Oleg Lebedev stated: ‘We had no problems or complaints about the quality of hotel accommodation, the quality of food, and measures to prevent COVID-19.’,” the IHF’s statement continued.

“On the day that Slovenia claimed that their players ate poisoned food, the Belarus team ate from the same buffet as well, without any negative consequences.”

“As for the match itself, Slovenia claimed that nine players played even though they were not well. They partly blame this — and, thus, the alleged food poisoning — for their performance. However, it has to be stated that the team played a good match and even were in the lead by five goals in the beginning of the second half. There was no indication on the field that the players underperformed due to sickness,” concluded the statement.

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