Paralyzed U.S. swimmer banned from Paralympic world championships

Victoria Arlen, shown at the ESPY awards earlier this year, has been banned from competing at the Paralympic world championships after the paralysis in her legs was ruled not permanent.
(Jordan Strauss / Associated Press)

With the furor over Russian anti-gay legislation and concerns over whether Rio de Janeiro can get its act together, you’d think the Olympic movement has enough on its hands.

Now comes word that officials have banned a paraplegic American swimmer from the Paralympic world championships in Montreal.

Victoria Arlen slipped into a coma at 11 and awoke three years later to find that she was paralyzed from the waist down because of an autoimmune disorder that attacks nerves in the spine.


Arlen has used a wheelchair to get around ever since, but nevertheless resumed competitive swimming and won four medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

The 18-year-old from New Hampshire had her bags packed for the world championships this week when she learned that the International Paralympic Committee had disqualified her, ruling that her condition was not permanent.

The ruling stemmed from a recent medical report submitted to the IPC in which a doctor suggested that, with years of physical therapy, Arlen might be able to walk again.

An IPC official told the timing was “not ideal,” but stood by the decision. Family members said Arlen was crushed.

“I’m so heartbroken with what has happened,” she wrote on her website. “I feel numb and completely shocked with the turn of events.”


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