April 29, 2012


Competing under False Pretenses: Fake Handicaps a Growing Problem for Disabled Sports (Lukas Eberle 4/27/12, Der Spiegel)

The public is particularly fascinated by disabled people who engage in high-performance sports. They are ambassadors of hope who set an example for everyone, because they have not only come to terms with their fate, but are also capable of incredible physical achievements despite their handicap.

Events like the upcoming Paralympics in London are always bathed in a special aura, a combination of competition and spirituality. There is more at stake than medals. In fact, disabled sports are mostly about respect.

But there is even trickery, deception and lying in disabled sports. There are plenty of dissemblers among the participants, people who, in medical inspections, deliberately paint their state of health in more dramatic terms than it is, thereby competing under false pretenses in events that are becoming increasingly popular and also provide the opportunity to make a lot of money.

One of the most spectacular cases was discovered about three weeks ago. The Dutch handbiker Monique van der Vorst had won two silver medals in the 2008 Paralympics. But after that she suddenly experienced a seemingly miraculous recovery. In the summer of 2010, she claimed that she had regained sensation in her legs after 13 years in a wheelchair. Since then, she said, she could stand up, walk and even ride a racing bike again.

Now Van der Vorst has had to admit that she was also able to stand and walk during her career as a paraplegic handbiker. Former competitors and neighbors had reported often seeing the athlete outside of her wheelchair -- taking a shower, or even dancing. Van der Vorst was a sports celebrity in the Netherlands, and now everyone is outraged. The newspapers are calling it a "scam" and a "lie."

All the athletes, trainers and officials in Rosenau are talking about the fallen disabled sports icon. Everyone is wondering how she managed to cheat her way through the classification for years.

Posted by at April 29, 2012 7:22 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus