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Becca Meyers Leaves Olympic Team.

This is one of those stories that we don’t know where we come down on.

Becca Meyers, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist swimmer, has withdrawn from the Tokyo Paralympics.

The 26-year-old suffers from Usher syndrome, which caused her to be blind. She has also been deaf since birth.

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 (sound) input to the brain (sensorineual hearing loss) accompanied by retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder that affects the retina and causes progressive loss of vision,” according to the National Organization for Rare Diseases.

Since 2017, in the aftermath of Rio, Meyers has had an understanding with the USOPC [U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee] that permits her mother, Maria, to travel with her to international competitions as her PCA [Personal Care Assistant]. The results have been spectacular. In 2018, she won five gold medals at the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns, Australia, and in 2019, she won four medals and set two world records, the eighth and ninth of her career, at the World Para Swimming Championships in London.

This year is different due to COVID.

Tokyo has restricted the number of PCAs that will be allowed into the country and because of the restrictions, Meyers has decided to withdraw from the Paralympics.

There seems to be confusion as to who is making the call on the number of PCAs that can be allowed at the games:

The question of who is responsible for the policy is where the story gets complicated. In explaining the situation to Meyers and her family, the USOPC has cited the restrictions imposed on foreign visitors and delegations by the Japanese government and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

“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, chief of sport performance and national governing body services for the USOPC, told Mark Meyers, Becca’s father, in a June 29 email, a copy of which Meyers provided to The Washington Post. “As I said to you both on the phone and over email, I fully empathize with your concerns and wish we could fine [sic] a way as we have in the past.”

However, the Meyerses, having worked connections in the U.S. government and the Olympic and Paralympic movement, have reached a different conclusion.

“We contacted the Maryland secretary of state. We had somebody contact the Japanese government, the ambassador — they all say it’s not the government [and] it’s not the organizing committee. It’s the USOPC that’s blocking this,” Mark Meyers said. “They can ask for more [official credentials]. … They just did not plan for her. They knew about this [issue] in February. They said, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you.’ They’ve had time to fix this, if they asked the right people. They’ve chosen not to.”

Added Becca Meyers: “No one has ever asked me what I need. No one has ever asked me that question. When we had a meeting in May to discuss this, I presented my case and I said, ‘Okay, how do we make this work?’ They talked right over me. They dismissed me. They said, ‘This is what we have; you’re going to have to deal with it.’ ”

Facing criticism for Paralympian’s withdrawal, USOPC defends athlete support system

In a statement provided to The Post, the USOPC responded: “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.”

This really is a difficult situation. We are mindful that Meyers needs a PCA to compete and that accommodation has been granted to her before. Yet the US Olympic team has lost a tennis player, a gymnast, and several basketball players due to positive tests for COVID.

As of July 18th:

The current total for positive cases among athletes, officials and journalists is at 58, according to data from the Olympics.

What is compounding the actions of different groups is this:

Much of the country entered its fourth COVID-19 state of emergency earlier this month after a spike in cases, and the restrictions will last through the entirety of the Games. Restaurants must close by 8 p.m., alcohol sales are prohibited, and citizens are encouraged to stay home whenever possible. Spectators will not be allowed at any events in Tokyo and many other venues. With a vaccination rate below 20 percent due to rollout delays and low supply, Japan’s vaccine rollout has been one of the slowest among wealthy nations.

Here in the US, “reasonable accommodations” do not require that companies put workers at risk. That’s one of the reasons why the people who didn’t want to wear masks were wrong in saying “I have a medical condition and you have to accommodate me.” Even though stores made accommodations by having employees do the shopping for people who did not want to wear masks, people still demanded to be let in. Yet the ADA says that if the person or the accommodation puts employees and others at risk, there doesn’t have to be any accommodation.

That appears to be what is happening with Meyers. Due to the low number of vaccinated people in Japan, the high number of cases, the number of Olympic people testing positive for COVID (to say nothing of contact tracing,) and the risk of people coming into Japan, Meyers accommodation could not be made.

We feel for the young lady. We really do. She wanted to go to the Paralympics and defend her medals and now she feels forced to withdraw.

The question is, “what else could the USOPC, government officials and the Olympic organizers do?”

We don’t have an answer to that.



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