“Penalized for Hope”: Swimmer Ruled Ineligible for Paralympics

At 11 years old, Victoria Arlen was diagnosed with the rare viral disease transverse myelitis. Within weeks, she was paralyzed from the waist down, and within months, she slipped into a nearly 2 year coma. Now seven years later at age 18, Victoria is an accomplished Paralympian swimmer. Well, she was a Paralympian. Yes, she is still accomplished, having taken home the gold and broken a world record in London 2012 – but the International Paralympic Committee recently ruled her ineligible to compete in Paralympic events, just days before she was set to compete in the World Swimming Championships in Montreal. Why? Because there is a possibility she may walk again.

According to the IPC, Arlen has “failed to provide conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment.” In other words, her disability may not be permanent. Their decision stems from a recent medical report that said if Arlen were to receive years of physical therapy, she might be able to walk again. Again… might.

The author of the report, Dr. Michael Levy from Johns Hopkins, responded to the committee saying his report was misconstrued, and that just because it is possible doesn’t mean it would happen quickly. Other people have come to her defense as well, including US Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., as well as the governor of New Hampshire  Maggie Hassan.

Arlen is “heartbroken” over what was happened. She issued a statement about the incident, and said she feels like she is being penalized for having hope that she could someday walk again.

To have train so hard this past year and come so far only to be humiliated and targeted by the IPC for reasons unknown baffles me. Being penalized for maybe having a glimmer of hope of one day being able to walk again is beyond sad. What message are we giving the world when we don’t encourage hope for disabled individuals? I always choose hope and encourage hope no matter the circumstance.

You can see a video interview with Arlen below. What do you think of the IPC’s decision? Fair or unfair?

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