EXETER, N.H. (CBS) — Paralympic gold medalist swimmer Victoria Arlen says she is fighting to keep her hopes and dreams alive after being banned from the Montreal Paralympic Games.
“It’s shocking and bizarre. I am being penalized for having hope ” Arlen said in an interview with WBZ-TV at her Exeter home on Sunday.
The International Paraylmpic Committee (IPC) just ruled Arlen’s disability may not be permanent and therefore she’s ineligible to compete. “I was devastated when they said I can’t compete, when I competed all last year. I have not been given a lot of answers,” Arlen said.
Seven years ago, Arlen suffered a rare neurological disorder of the spinal cord. “Within two weeks, I was completely paralyzed from my waist down. And within months, I was in a coma fighting for my life,” Arlen said.
Last year, Arlen made the U.S. Paralympic swim team and defied all odds, winning a gold medal in the Paralymic Games in London and setting a world record. Arlen was supposed to compete this week in Montreal. Now she is banned from competing in the Montreal games.
“I am not walking now and I won’t be in the near future, that’s for sure,” she said. “I want to remain hopeful and I am being penalized for being hopeful.”
Arlen remains hopeful for the future and has received a lot of support, including from U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
“I don’t want to be bitter. I just hope we can find answers and figure out how this can’t happen again to anyone else,” Arlen said.
The IPC released this statement Sunday night:
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.
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).