The Sydney Morning Herald

May 10, 1996

Perkins's health still a puzzle


Kieren Perkins's three world records have been testament to his extraordinary swimming prowess,Kieren at the 1996 Olympic trials but details which emerged yesterday - following his below-par performance at the Australian championships - suggest he could be a candidate for medical history.

In a statement issued by Perkins through his management company, IMG, which was supposed to clarify his worrying medical condition, the swimmer said he was suffering an imbalance in his iron stores which were at an extremely high level.

He then said those iron stores were not being used and were resulting in low levels of iron in his blood, causing problems of loss of energy and strength.

"The level of iron stores has led to a high amount of oxidants in his system and he is undergoing anti-oxidant treatment to overcome this problem," the statement said.

But a number of doctors, haematologists and sports scientists has debunked such an explanation.

"This would be a very, very unusual condition," Sports Medicine Australia president Peter Larkins said.

Sports scientist Dr Dick Telford said he has never seen an athlete with such a blood result. "It doesn't follow at all, I have never seen or heard of such a case," he said.

Specialists have indicated that Perkins's low levels of iron in his blood may have stemmed from a virus or that high levels of stored iron in his bone marrow may have resulted from an inflamed liver, but it appears highly unlikely the two conditions would go hand in hand.

"There is usually a good correlation between the two (the iron stores and the levels of iron in the blood)," a haematologist said. "If his iron stores are high then he doesn't have an iron deficiency and doctors would be looking at an underlying cause."

Perkins has been having intravenous injections of high doses of vitamin C and E in a bid to rectify the imbalance, his coach, John Carew, said yesterday. He said Perkins, 23, had also been suffering a virus, restricting his training workload for the past week.

Medical tests for Perkins were ordered after the Queenslander performed well below his best at the recent Australian championships, failing to make the Australian Olympic team in the 200m freestyle, for which he is Commonwealth champion, or the 400m freestyle, in which he is world champion and world record holder.

In his statement Perkins said he was relieved an explanation had been found for his swimming so poorly at the trials.

"I'm sure once I overcome this problem my training and performances will be back to where they should be and I am looking forward to being as close as possible to my best when I defend my 1,500m title in Atlanta," he said.

But Carew said he was still worried that Perkins has been unable to train since the trials ended nearly two weeks ago.

"I am a little bit worried about the time aspect - we have less than 11 weeks and we can't afford any further setbacks", he said.

Perkins is scheduled to attend an official distance training camp in Singapore next week as part of the acclimatisation for the dense humidity expected in Atlanta.

The Courier-Mail, July 28, 1996

Olympic hero Kieren Perkins had to beat a potentially fatal liver complaint to win gold yesterday.

His mother Mrs Gloria Perkins yesterday revealed an iron overload in his system had been poisoning his liver.

"It just sapped his energy," she said.

"He couldn't work out why he felt so bad all the time. You wouldn't have noticed it, but as his mum I could see he had black, black circles under his eyes all of the time. He just never looked well."

"He's been sick a lot this year. Have you ever tried to train for a 1500m race when you are feeling sick all the time?"


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