Grieving father campaigns for runners' safety

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The Independent Online
TODAY at 9.30am, French time, the runners will line up for the start of the Monaco marathon. It is not the sporting event most associated with the principality, but this year it has a tragic significance for one spectator.

Phil Loyley, a British-born millionaire whose 26-year-old daughter, Anna, collapsed and died as she completed this year's Bath half-marathon, is planning to watch the race from the sidelines. He wants to see for himself just how many doctors, paramedics and ambulances are there. He knows how quickly a "fun" event can become the scene of tragedy, and his work since the death of his daughter is set to alter the medical rules for marathons.

"The situation is not ideal," said Pierre Weiss, the general director of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). "We were aware of this sad case and as a former director of the French Athletic Federation, I know how many road race collapses there are at the finishing line."

Mr Weiss stressed that while the IAAF is the technical adviser for its 209-member federations, its medical rules function as guidelines only. "We will be improving these guidelines and looking at Mr Loyley's proposals," he added. "It would not be wise for race organisers to ignore them."

When Ms Loyley, a theatrical agent, collapsed in Bath on 8 March she was treated by St John Ambulance volunteers. A recording of her heart taken at the time shows that it was not beating properly, yet she was not given a therapeutic electric shock for more than eight minutes. Unknown to her, to her parents and to her fiance, Nick Raggett, she was suffering from a symptomless condition that predisposed her heart to arrhythmia. Off-duty doctors who came forward to help concentrated on inappropriate attempts to manually resuscitate her. And the doctor who had been appointed by race organisers did not attend her. "I have never wanted to criticise particular individuals, who I am sure were all trying to do the best for Anna," said Mr Loyley. "But the fact remains that the portable defibrillator's instructions to shock my daughter were not followed. I will always wonder if her life could have been saved."

Last month, at the inquest into the death, an expert witness referred to the medical treatment she received at the finish line as "sub-optimal" and the coroner, Brian Whitehouse, took the unusual step of calling for the British Athletic Federation to screen all competitive road runners for congenital heart defects.

Mr Loyley once had little interest in athletics, but he is now on the brink of bringing about important changes to the sport's regulations. He believes his eldest child might be alive if the organisers of the Bath race, The City of Bath Athletics Club, had hired a paramedical team.

"The IAAF will be taking my suggestions to their next meeting," said Mr Loyley. "By next summer the advice to national athletics federations could be much more strict. It is crucial that marathons have qualified doctors and paramedics on hand. Heart problems do happen - in fact the likelihood of a fatal attack is around one in 80,000 and a 30-year-old man died only last year in the Bath race - so it is certainly worth having the right equipment there. But, of course, you also have to have people who use it effectively."

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