Becca Meyers, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist, announced on Tuesday she is withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics over lack of ‘reasonable’ accommodations.
The 26-year-old US Paralympian, who won three gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016, has accused the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) of denying her essential accommodation over her disability. Meyers suffers from Usher syndrome, which caused her to be blind while she has also been deaf since birth.
The Usher syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes deafness “due to an impaired ability of the inner ear and auditory nerves to transmit sensory input to the brain (sensorineural hearing loss) accompanied by retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder that effects the retina and causes progressive loss of vision,” according to the National Organization for Rare Diseases.
The decision to enforce a crackdown on who can attend the Games because of the coronavirus pandemic was taken in June. According to The Washington Post, these crackdowns had a ripple effect on Meyers as they enforced that no foreign spectators would be allowed while also putting a limit on who the countries could bring to the Games.
“There remain no exceptions to late additions to our delegation list other than the athletes and essential operational personnel per the organizing committee and the government of Japan,” Rick Adams, the chief of sports performance and national governing body services for the USOPC, told Meyers’ father Mark in an email on 29th June.
Meyers said she had “no choice” but to make the “gut-wrenching” decision to withdraw.
“I’ve had to make the gut-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. I’m angry, I’m disappointed, but most of all, I’m sad to not be representing my country.
Heartbroken to share that I’m withdrawing from the Tokyo Paralympic Games. The USOPC has repeatedly denied my reasonable and essential accommodation because of my disability, leaving me no choice. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/p9tKsbPip2
— Becca Meyers (@becca_meyers) July 20, 2021
“The USOPC has denied a reasonable & essential accommodation for me, as a deaf-blind athlete, to be able to compete in Tokyo, telling me repeatedly that I do not need a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) ‘who I trust’ because there will be a single PCA on staff that is available to assist me and 33 other Paralympic swimmers, 9 of whom are also visually impaired. The USOPC has approved me having a trusted PCA (my mom) at all international meets since 2017, but this time it’s different. With COVID, there are few safety measures and limits of non-essential staff in place, rightfully so, but a trusted PCA is essential for me to compete.
“So, in 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights? I’m speaking up for future generations of Paralympic athletes in hope that they never have to experience the pain I’ve been through. Enough is enough.”
With the Olympic Games set to begin on Friday and last through August 8, and the Paralympic Games to follow from August 24. Meyers’ plight has already garnered high-level interest. In Congress on Tuesday, US Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire, spoke about Meyers in a hearing for the Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee.
“This is an outrage and a preventable situation that should never have gotten to this point. I want the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee to work immediately to address this issue, and I want them to ensure that all of our athletes are able to compete safely at this summer’s games, including by providing them the basic supports that they need just to navigate the world.”
In the aftermath of the issue attracting global interest, speaking to The Post, the USOPC said, “We are dealing with unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground in Tokyo. As it’s been widely reported, (the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games), at the direction of the government of Japan, is not permitting any personnel other than operational essential staff with roles related to the overall execution of the games, into the country.
“This position has resulted in some athletes advising us that they will not accept a nomination to Team USA for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are heartbroken for athletes needing to make agonizing decisions about whether to compete if they are unable to have their typical support resources at a major international competition, but our top priority is ensuring the safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and the citizens of the host country.“