US senators object to NH swimmer being ineligible

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte are objecting to a decision not to allow a New Hampshire record-setting swimmer to participate in the International Paralympic World Swimming Championships next week in Montreal, saying she is ineligible because they don’t believe her disability is permanent.

The two senators from New Hampshire sent letters to the International Paralympic Committee on Friday saying that notifying Victoria Arlen that she is ineligible shortly before the competition is to start is wrong and unfair.

“The way in which the International Paralympic Committee conducted itself regarding the classification process of Victoria is reprehensible,” their letters said. “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.

“In addition, we believe the para-swimming classification process used to determine the athlete’s eligibility should be reevaluated,” the senators wrote.

The International Paralympic Committee, based in Germany, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Arlen was paralyzed from the waist down due to illness seven years ago. She resumed competitive swimming at the age of 16. And at last year’s Paralympics in London, the Exeter teenager set a world record and won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and silver medals in three other races.

On Monday, she learned she was deemed ineligible for the Montreal games based on the possibility of future treatment, her father said. She has been training all year for the games and is devastated not to be competing, Larry Arlen said.

“We believe the International Paralympic Committee should investigate this matter further, as well as reevaluate the para-swimming classification process so that young athletes are never put through a similar situation,” the senators said.

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