A Team GB athlete is calling for organisers to think again over their water testing after he was among those who fell sick following a weekend of triathlon races.
Roger Fairhurst has urged Castle Race Series to revise procedures to ensure competitors’ safety in triathlon races at Hever Castle, near Tonbridge.
The event organisers say water quality tests carried out beforehand showed the lake to be “safe and suitable” for swimming, but an investigation has been launched following a number of reports of sickness.
Roger won the silver medal in the 50 to 54-year-old category of the British Aquathlon Championships on Saturday, September 23.
Despite only being in the water for “about 15 minutes” during the 750-metre swim, the 50-year-old said he developed symptoms two days later which included stomach cramps, fever, nausea, and fatigue.
The athlete, who has competed at the European Triathlon Championships, said he had mostly recovered two days after that, but his “stomach is still not feeling right”.
He said: “I have never been ill after an event before. I even raced the half ironman in 2021 but did not suffer from sickness.
“I would only consider going back to Hever Castle to compete if they discovered the source of the pollution and then stopped it.
“They need to revise the water testing protocols as well to keep athletes safe.
“The testing protocol that is currently used does not appear to be fit for purpose.”
Twelve people have told KentOnline that they or family members fell ill after swimming in the lake, with a range of problems including nausea, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Caroline Mace’s two daughters took part in the triathlon races at Hever Castle and both were ill afterwards.
Phoebe Mace vomited on the Sunday night at around 11pm after racing on the Saturday at 12.30pm.
The nine-year-old had to stay at home until Wednesday, September 27.
Her sister Imogen, 12, also vomited on the Tuesday while she was at school after competing in the Sunday race at 3pm and was off until Friday, September 29.
Caroline, from Causeway near Tonbridge, said she would be “reluctant” to let her daughters take part again unless she was assured “major improvements have been made to stop the pollution spilling into the lake”.
She added: “It’s disgusting to think what they must have been swimming through to make them feel so poorly.
“It’s not worth the risk to their health.
“It is such a shame because Hever is our local triathlon and it’s such a fun event for them and their friends to take part in.”
People took to social media to share their symptoms with one person saying “it was like swimming in a massive puddle of ****.”
Emma Phillips said if her daughter Olivia wanted to take part in the event next year they “would absolutely go again,” despite her 10-year-old’s sickness after competing in the junior triathlon.
Olivia developed a temperature and was off school for three days after throwing up.
Emma, from Suffolk, said: “We can’t know for sure that the water caused Oliva’s illness as it could just as easily have been something she ate or not washing her hands as some of the toilets didn’t have running water.
“It could also have been a virus from elsewhere.
“Everything was really well organised and is one of the better events that we’ve been to.
“Oliva felt very safe the whole time and the lake was shallow so she could stand if she needed to.
“She smiled the whole way round and lapped up the atmosphere and was supported. It was just unfortunate that she was sick at school afterwards.”
After those affected emailed race organisers Castle Race Series, an official statement was released.
A spokesman for the event management company said: “We understand that a number of competitors are experiencing sickness, including diarrhoea and vomiting, having taken part in the swim leg of an event over the weekend.
“We are sorry to hear this and wish you a speedy recovery if you are not already back to your normal self.
“Understandably, this has left some feeling anxious as to the cause and we wish to reassure anyone about our testing procedures before, and during, the weekend.”
The spokesman explained an initial water test takes place six weeks ahead of any race and then again four and two weeks before.
Samples are taken from the body of water and the tests are conducted in a lab to look for both E.coli and Enterococci to ensure that the water quality is safe to swim in.
In the week leading up to the races, these tests are carried out once every morning five, four and three days before to ensure the quality of the water has not fluctuated from previous results.
The spokesman continued: “We can confirm that all test results received indicated the water was safe and suitable for swimming.”