United States Paralympic swimmer Becca Meyers announced Tuesday on social media that she is withdrawing from the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Heartbroken to share that I’m withdrawing from the Tokyo Paralympic Games. The USOPC has repeatedly denied my reasonable and essential accommodation because of my disability, leaving me no choice. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/p9tKsbPip2— Becca Meyers (@becca_meyers) July 20, 2021
Heartbroken to share that I’m withdrawing from the Tokyo Paralympic Games. The USOPC has repeatedly denied my reasonable and essential accommodation because of my disability, leaving me no choice. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/p9tKsbPip2
In her post, Meyers wrote that “the USOPC has denied a reasonable & essential accommodation for me, as a deaf-blind athlete, to be able to compete in Tokyo, telling me repeatedly that I do not need a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) ‘who I trust.’”
Their reasoning, Meyers said, is that one PCA will be on staff to assist Meyers and 33 other Paralympic swimmers, nine of whom are visually impaired.
“A trusted PCA is essential for me to compete,” she continued. “So, in 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights?”
According to the Washington Post, Meyers has had an understanding with the USOPC since the 2016 Rio Olympics that her mother would be allowed to travel with her to international competitions as her PCA.
For the Tokyo Games, however, Meyers’ needs have been denied as personal care assistants are not permitted into Japan due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But the question of whose call it was is in question. According to the Meyers family, which has sought help through connections in the U.S. Government and the Olympic and Paralympic movement, the decision remains entirely within the bounds of the USOPC.
“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,” Becca’s father, Mark Meyers, told the Washington Post. “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.”
Becca says nobody within the USOPC has ever asked her what she needed.
Meanwhile, the USOPC maintains that the Japanese government is responsible for the limitations on PCAs.
The Meyers family has argued that PCAs of Paralympians should receive essential personnel designation, much like golfers’ caddies and the grooms who attend to horses in equestrian events during the Olympics.
“Your heart just breaks for her,” said Bruce Gemmell, an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s swim team in Rio and one of Becca’s coaches. “It seems to me if our focus is athletes first, which it should be but which it isn’t always — if athletes first is what we’re doing, then we as a USOPC, we need to do better. We must do better.”