Friday, September 2, 2011

Olympic athlete Andrew Steele, son of Dr Chris Steele MBE, health expert for ITV's This Morning, about his struggle with Epstein-Barr

By Andrew Steele, Tuesday, 30 August 2011:

You might have seen me struggling to finish dead last at the World Championship trials a few weeks ago. It wasn't pretty. Once upon a time, I ran under 44.94 seconds in the 400m at the Olympic Games. That's pretty good, I promise. I am now more than £10,000 in debt, with an immune system ravaged by Epstein-Barr virus (or glandular fever), pride swallowed, confidence shattered and, most importantly, my dreams and goals of the last decade close to being laid out before me in tatters.

It wasn't meant to be like this. I'm in danger of becoming the Nearly Man. Writing this could be a pointless exercise in self-absorption, but I want to highlight the lesser-told story of elite sport: the one that doesn't necessarily end in glory.


I was struggling to run, and none of the team physios could relieve the sensation. I was finding it hard to sleep, waking up almost every 90 minutes, all night long. Two weeks later I was very, very tired, and running times in training that were just embarrassing. A month prior I had been on top of the world, and now I could barely beat the club-level athletes I trained with. I felt as though my athletic ability had been erased overnight. It turns out, it had. I was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, and a weight lifted from my shoulders as we finally put a name to what was going on. That was quickly replaced by a descent into the reality facing me.

But the route out of Epstein-Barr is complicated and ambiguous. There is no real treatment. The virus can attack the brain - in my case the Hypothalamus, the part that controls your "fight or flight" response - which gives it a psychological potency. That makes onlookers think "it's all in your head".


And now I face the reality. In all likelihood I will be cut from lottery funding at the end of this year, and rightly so. UK Athletics have been wonderful in keeping me on through all the troubles thus far, I am incredibly thankful for that. I have almost no other income; the amount I was receiving in lottery funding was barely enough to live on anyway.

Unless I find some sort of large private sponsorship, I will be forced into retirement less than a year before the biggest event British sport has ever seen. Can I really just be some guy working in a shop somewhere while the London Olympics inspire and improve our country? While my one-time contemporaries achieve greatness?

I really don't want a reasonably fast run, in a preliminary round of a major championship, to be the only highlight in a decade of hardship and discipline which left me with five-figure debt. This is the lesser-told road, the one that ends in a muddy field, not an awe-inspiring land of BBC montages soundtracked by Sigur Ros. For every success, there are many, many more for whom things did not go right. That's the beauty of sport.

You don't embark on a quest for Olympic greatness because it's a guaranteed easy ride. Fingers crossed, I can change the cards I have been dealt. Read more>>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Feel really bad for this kid, but it just mimics the hardships we all face when were cut down by M.E.. Surprised their using the old term epstein barre, just shows how misunderstood this illness is. Wish he would hold a press conference and announce what we already know to the world.


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