Oxford rower blames toxic river for defeat in Boat Race

Image above: The Oxford men’s rowers during Saturday’s race; theboatrace.org

E Coli outbreak among Oxford team left several rowers “throwing up”

A rower on the Oxford team which lost the Boat Race on Saturday (30 March) has complained about “poo in the water” and claimed sickness caused by an outbreak of E Coli played a part in their defeat.

Research carried out a week before the race began found potentially lethal levels of E coli bacteria along the course on the River Thames.

Guidance was issued to racers to not enter the water, cover bruises and open wounds and to thoroughly wash themselves down at the end of the race.

Despite health warnings the historic race went ahead, and both the men’s and women’s races were won by the University of Cambridge on Saturday afternoon (30 March).

Afterwards, the University of Oxford’s Leonard Jenkins told the BBC his team:

“had a few guys go down pretty badly with E. coli, this morning, I was throwing up, I was not sure there would be a chance for me to be in the boat”.

He added: “But I kept that quiet and that is on my shoulders. I’m not sure if it was the right choice because I don’t feel I had much to give.

“It would be a lot nicer if there wasn’t as much poo in the water.

“It’s not to take away from Cambridge, as we may not have beaten them even if we were all on top form.”

Images above: New York Times covered sewage in the Thames this weekend, Sewage spotted in the Thames near Strand-on-the-Green in Chiswick

News of River Thames pollution reaches international audiences

The Boat Race has focused international attention on the pollution of the River Thames. Outlets such as Fox News, CNN and the New York Times covered the build up to the race, highlighting the problem of sewage. Thursday’s New York Times read:

“The warning is stern: Do not enter the water. Not because of the tide. Not because of sharks. Because of the sewage.”

CBS talked about London’s “sewage-infused” Thames.

Oxford’s coach Sean Bowden called pollution in the river a “national disgrace”.

Campaigning group River Action said its testing suggested the source of pollution is from Thames Water discharging sewage directly into the river and its tributaries.

READ ALSO: Potentially lethal levels of E coli found in River Thames ahead of Boat Race

It said this was based on publicly available data which showed that the water company had discharged sewage into the Greater London area of the River Thames for 1,914 hours from the start of 2024 up to 26 March.

Images above: Women’s Boat Race crew on a sludge brown river on Saturday

Team-mates reluctant to blame Oxford loss on E Coli

Mr Jenkins’ team-mate Will Denegri was more reluctant to blame team illnesses and water conditions for their loss.

He said: “This week we’ve had three people who have had to miss sessions because they’ve had stomach bugs, essentially.

“Whether that’s related to E. coli in the river I don’t know, but it’s certainly not helped our campaign, and it’s a poor excuse.

“It’s not an excuse, but it definitely hasn’t helped our preparation.”

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