Paralympics bans athlete over ‘sliver of hope’

There’s a chance Victoria Arlen could walk again. New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators are urging the International Paralympic Committee to let her swim.

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The International Paralympic Committee has banned the New Hampshire 18-year-old from competition in any future events, including next week’s Paralympic World Swimming Championships in Montreal. The committee says her disability—she lost the use of her legs in 2006 as a result of a spinal-cord inflammation called transverse myelitis—may not be permanent.

She competed in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London only after arbitration persuaded the committee to allow it. There, Arlen won gold and broke two world records. At issue is what Arlen’s coach John Ogden calls “a sliver of hope” from the swimmer’s doctors that she could walk again.

New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators, Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, issued a joint letter to the committee asking for the Paralympics to re-evaluate its criteria.

“The way in which the International Paralympic Committee conducted itself regarding the classification process of Victoria is reprehensible,” the letter states. “Not only does this decision have a direct impact on Victoria but it also affects the sport of swimming, as well as the sponsors and coaches involved in the competition.”

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