Fran Crippen, a 26-year-old Olympic hopeful from a family of prominent swimmers in Philadelphia, died near the end of a World Cup event in the UAE this weekend
Doctor on Fran Crippen case: ‘No such thing as dying of exhaustion’.The news of swimmer Fran Crippen’s death has created an outpouring of response and raised serious questions about the race conditions and safety issues at the 10K open water event in the United Arab Emirates.
Crippen did not finish the race on Saturday and was found in the water about two hours later. Three swimmers were also hospitalized and treated for heat exhaustion — two of them American women — and the winner, Thomas Lurz, was quoted as saying the competition should not have taken place, citing high water and air temperatures.
(Separately, USA Swimming just announced it will commission an independent investigation into Crippen’s death, saying it will “examine exactly what happened to Crippen, why it happened and what can be learned to keep such an incident from happening again.”)
(Stating the obvious, it will be separate from FINA’s ongoing probe into the matter. FINA is the international governing body of the sport.)
Of the many comments posted to The Times blog item on Saturday, one in particular caught my eye. It was from noted oncologist Larry Weisenthal, founder of the Weisenthal Cancer Group in Huntington Beach. He competed on the varsity team at the University of Louisville and still swims and assists at open-water events.
He granted permission to reprint his comments from the Saturday blog item, and we spoke at greater length about the tragedy. Weisenthal took issue with contention from race officials in the U.A.E. that Crippen died from “overexertion.”
“I’m a physician and there’s no such thing as dying of exhaustion,” said Weisenthal, adding that such a thing was nonsensical.
The conversation covered a lot of ground — he said the race never should have taken place under those conditions. What sort of measures should be taken so something like this doesn’t happen again?
“At a minimum, I think two things that need to happen,” he said. “There needs to be a little bit of scientific study to be put into this. It wouldn’t be that expensive or hard for FINA to do. I could design some studies to determine a maximum safe water temperature.
“Also, for world-class, open-water races, each swimmer needs to have someone assigned to take care of him.”