American Paralympic Champion Victoria Arlen Banned From World Championships

MONTREAL, Canada, August 12. THE International Paralympic Committee’s world swimming championships begins today in Montreal, and the American contingent will not feature one of its top stars from last year’s Paralympics.

On Sunday, Victoria Arlen was banned from competing in this year’s world championships because the IPC believes Arlen’s paralysis sustained after contracting a rare viral disease in 2006 has the chance to be cured, and thus, not be a permanent disability. That, in the eyes of the IPC, is grounds for excluding Arlen from competition this year — and possibly for future meets.

“IPC Swimming can confirm that Victoria Arlen of the USA will not participate at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships and future IPC Swimming competitions having failed to provide conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment,” the organization said in statement released today.

The press release continues: “Following her classification at the London 2012 Paralympic Games last August, IPC Swimming requested a medical report into her impairment within 12 months. This was duly provided by the USOC on 24 July 2013.

“The medical report has been reviewed by five independent medical experts. All are in agreement that the report, its assessment and its diagnosis fail to provide sufficient evidence of an eligible impairment leading to permanent or verifiable activity limitation — which is required under the IPC Swimming Classification Rules and Regulations.

Therefore the athlete has been found non-eligible to compete in IPC swimming competitions.
Following a USOC appeal, the Board of Appeal of Classification (BAC) upheld the decision on Friday (9 August).”

According to an article written by The Associated Press, two senators from New Hampshire, Arlen’s home state, have written letters to the IPC to call out their error in keeping Arlen out of the meet after she had been putting a heavy focus on preparation for the meet after qualifying last April. In the letter Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte wrote, they said “the way in which the International Paralympic Committee conducted itself regarding the classification process of Victoria is reprehensible.” They also called for an investigation into the IPC system of classifying athletes into their respective divisions, though the IPC announced last summer they were starting a two-year process of examining the classification system.

“This Code aims to contribute to sporting excellence for all athletes in the Paralympic Movement by providing equitable competition through classification processes that are robust, transparent and fair,” the IPC said in a June 2013 press release regarding their system. The first round of reviews is ongoing, with more meetings to re-examine the code in summer 2014. After those meetings, the IPC will present their findings to the IPC Classification Committee and the IPC Governing Board in 2015 for approval.

Arlen told Boston TV station WBZ that she was disappointed by the ruling, stating that she was “penalized for having hope.” Arlen has experience with IPC rulings, as she and a few other top athletes were reclassified just days before the start of last year’s Paralympics. Arlen managed to prosper in London despite the last-minute change. She won a gold medal in the 100 freestyle in the S6 division, setting a world record, as well as three silver medals.

“I have the utmost respect for the IPC and classification system,” she said. “I just hope we can find answers … and in the future this won’t happen to anyone else.”

Associated Press article (via Huffington Post)

WBZ article