Becca Meyers, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist, said Tuesday she is withdrawing from the Tokyo Games.
Meyers, who won three gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016, accused the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) of denying her essential accommodation over her disability. 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.
Meyers said she had “no choice” but to make the “gut-wrenching decision” to withdraw.
“I’m angry, I’m disappointed, but most of all, I’m sad to not be representing my country,” she said in a statement.
“The USOPC has denied a reasonable & essential accommodation for me, as a deaf-blind athlete, to be able to compete in Toyko, 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 new 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.”
According to The Washington Post, the crackdown on who can attend the Games because of the coronavirus pandemic had a ripple effect on Meyers. There are no foreign spectators allowed and a limit on who the countries can 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 sport performance and national governing body services for the USOPC, told Meyers’ father Mark in an email on June 29, according to the 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.”
The Meyers family told the newspaper they were told it wasn’t the governments blocking the extra personnel, but concluded it was the USOPC.
“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,” the USOPC told The Post.
“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.”
The USOPC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
Speedo expressed support for Meyers.
“Becca has been forced to make a decision that no Paralympian should ever have to make and Speedo fully supports her decision to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. As a valued member of Team Speedo, we continue to stand alongside Becca and support her journey and all that makes her an inspiring role model for the next generation of swimmers,” the company said in a statement to Fox News.
Meyers picked up wins in the 400-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter medley in Rio de Janeiro.