Japanese athlete collapses after mistakenly drinking sanitizer

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Japanese authorities have pledged to investigate a mix-up that saw high school athletes given hand sanitizer to drink during a race, with one student falling ill after taking a swig.

Competition organizers for a girls’ 5,000-meter walking race held last weekend in central Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture mistakenly poured the sanitizer into cups and placed them at a drinks station for athletes.


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Yamanashi’s high school sport federation said the sanitizer had been stored in an unlabeled plastic bottle alongside those containing drinking water in a cardboard box.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is commonly used to protect against COVID-19 and has become ubiquitous in Japan and other countries since the pandemic began.

One athlete collapsed, vomited and dropped out of the race after drinking the sanitizer, while two others spat it out and continued.

In all, three athletes were taken to hospital for treatment and were reported to be recovering.

Yamanashi governor Kotaro Nagasaki said Monday that there would be a third-party investigation.

“On behalf of the prefecture, I would like to offer a sincere apology to the athlete and her family,” he said.

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