Victoria Arlen Banned from IPC World Championships; Sviderska Breaks WR by 28 Seconds in Prelims

The International Paralympic Committee on Sunday, the eve of the 2013 IPC World Championships in Montreal Canada, announced that it had ruled American and IPC World Record holder Victoria Arlen ineligible for competition after the Board of Appeal of Classification denied an appeal by the USOC on Friday.

IPC Swimming can confirm that Victoria Arlen of the USA will not participate at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships and future IPC Swimming competitions having failed to provide conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment.

Following her classification at the London 2012 Paralympic Games last August, IPC Swimming requested a medical report into her impairment within 12 months. This was duly provided by the USOC on 24 July 2013.

The medical report has been reviewed by five independent medical experts. All are in agreement that the report, its assessment and its diagnosis fail to provide sufficient evidence of an eligible impairment leading to permanent or verifiable activity limitation – which is required under the IPC Swimming Classification Rules and Regulations.

Therefore the athlete has been found non-eligible to compete in IPC swimming competitions.

Following a USOC appeal, the Board of Appeal of Classification (BAC) upheld the decision on Friday (9 August).

Arlen’s paralysis in her legs stemmed from a 2006 viral attack that at one point left her in a totally non-responsive state. In a miraculous story, she has not only returned to the pool, but has become one of the world’s best Para swimmers.

This is not the first time that the classification of the upstart Arlen has been called into question at the last minute; days before the start of the Paralympic Games, her classification was called out as well.

The IPC’s finding, while it would surely be spectacular if Arlen’s condition was cured, leaves her in a bit of athletic limbo. Her disability leaves her unable to compete in standard competitions against athletes without paralysis, but similarly she’s not eligible for IPC competition, either.

She has been in a wheel chair for 7 years. Larry Arlen, Victoria’s father says that Victoria’s doctor has denied saying anything of the sort. Several senators, including the two from her native New Hampshire, have taken up the cause, as have several of the world’s largest disability organizations.

Arlen swims in the S6 classification, which is the same classification as Britain’s star Ellie Simmonds, who is the biggest name in the sport and is rumored to have inked over $1 million in endorsements. At the 2012 Paralympic Games, Arlen took gold in the 100 free and silver in the 50 and 400 frees, while Simmonds won the 400 free and 200 IM, took silver in the 100 free, and bronze in the 50 free.

Once again, the political and technical challenges of the IPC classification system has been brought to the forefront. Many, including most vocally the athletes themselves, have questioned the current system and whether it creates the most level playing field. Of course, rulings on ‘permanence’ of a disability is significant, to differentiate an athlete with a hairline fracture in their leg from one with a permanent paralysis, however the line seems to be a fuzzy one, especially with advances in medical technology giving more-and-more people the hope for cures for different conditions. IPC athletes have to take great care in their public statements in terms of appearances on improvement in actual physical condition if there is not any such improvement, for risk of repercussions like these.

Meanwhile, with the World Championships beginning in earnest this morning in Canada, three World Records were broken: Russia’s Konstantin Lisenkov broke the men’s S8 100 backstroke World Record in 1:04.12 (beating his own best); Mexican S4 swimmer Nely Miranda swam a 41.72 to knock two seconds from the old World Record from 2011; and Ukraine’s Olga Sviderska swam a 3:46.04 in the women’s S3 200 free, which took an unbelievable 28 seconds off of the old World Record from 2008.

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Larry Arlen
9 years ago

I need to clarify the IPC’s constant misuse of words and facts. They have had since last year over 90 pages of Victoria’s medical records they keep forgetting to mention.

Also, they forget to mention that they tried to get away from classifying her at all last year in London and got caught. After finally classifying her she was more an S5 than an S6, but the S5’s had already started competing.

Lastly, over a month ago our local news station emailed the IPC about Victoria’s schedule and were informed that Victoria wasn’t competing in Montreal. After our USOC investigated this they said is was an error, that their staff member looked at the wrong schedule. If you look at… Read more »

9 years ago

Frankly I don’t understand the classification “system” and how an athlete can move from S6 to banned from the sport. I’d also like to know how soon “following her classification” the IPC requested the documentation from the USOC. Did they really have need nearly a year to submit the documentation?
The process does not, on the face of it, present the IPC in the best light……banning an athlete days before competition begins for an issue that seemingly raised some time ago makes one wonder about the process.
That’s too bad because I found the competition in London so inspiring and thought the potential for its broad acceptance in the US quite good last year….this cannot be good for… Read more »

Reply to  newswim
9 years ago

I don’t understand the rules completely either, but if it has something to do with permanency, and a slight chance that Arlen could recover to normal functioning, then it’s a ridiculous rule. If she ever does start to improve, her class can be re-evaluated. if she is going to be excluded, then so should many others with similar prognoses. But this currently leaves her without a venue to compete in, which is salt in the wound for a disabled athlete.

This is so ridiculous, that I smell politics at work, which, unfortunately, seems to be the norm these days.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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