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“We’re just like you”: Disabled athletes on why they should be seen as equals

Envision an athlete… In your mind, who is the athlete you see? And why isn’t that athlete disabled?

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Envision an athlete… In your mind, who is the athlete you see? And why isn’t that athlete disabled? 

Despite progress in technology, and legal rights of individuals with disabilities, equality for disabled athletes is still an issue. Hence, with the Government’s National Strategy for Disabled People being published this spring, it’s fundamental we continue the conversation on why it’s essential to implement inclusivity at a young age, and how retiring stereotypes and misconceptions will help people understand that disabled athletes are athletes too. 

When we discuss athletes, we often imagine able-bodied athletes, as time and time again, able-bodied athletes have graced the covers of sports illustrated, or have been the face of sporting brands like Nike. 

Because of this neglect, it’s no surprise that when asked to name a disabled athlete he looks up to, 18 year old Rory Teel was left silent. 

“Having been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age three and mild autism at age seven, I developed feelings of segregation from able-bodied individuals at a young age,” said Rory. 

Rory, who has always had an interest in sports, explained that he never felt like the other student athletes, and was blatantly treated differently by his peers.

The outlook of his peers could be a testament to the media’s power to influence the ideas of children (and adults) about minority groups -including the disabled. 

That is why Lauren McKnight, 29, who works as a disability inclusion officer, feels it’s crucial that lessons regarding disabilities are implemented in schools. 

Lauren’s role is to ensure that schools in England embed inclusivity and equality in PE, sport and physical activity at a young age. 

She said: “I’ve seen first-hand how children with disabilities doubt themselves in areas like sport; because everyone else treats them like they’re less than normal.” 

Kim Sauder, a writer on disability issues, said: “Disabled people are either viewed as superheroes or victims. We don’t live in a society where media coverage of us allows our lives to have any nuance. Where we are just regular people living our lives,” said Kim. 

Frankie Butler, 22, an athlete who now suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) was a competitive sprinter at university, and an elite hockey player for England’s Under 17 Hockey squad. At 19, and just a month before trying out for Scotland’s under 21 team, Frankie tore the outer ligaments of her left ankle. Following complications in her surgery, she developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome; one of the world’s most painful, incurable illnesses.

“People I used to play hockey with didn’t even know what to say to me when they saw me; It’s like I lost my identity. I thought I would never be able to be an elite athlete again. 

“But one day my psychiatrist told me: ‘If you put your life on hold until your life is better, then you will never have a proper life. You need to realise you can still live life and have fun while being disabled,’” She said. 

Frankie has now made it her goal in life to make people – especially young athletes – see that disabled people are still very capable, and that they too can enjoy sports and be athletes if they want to. 

Despite being on a wheelchair, Frankie still goes on ‘walks’ every day, enters races, plans to wheel up a munro – defined as a mountain over 3,000 feet high – and even intends to complete a marathon this year. 

“I would’ve loved it if I had someone in a wheelchair to look up to. Just seeing a photo or following an athlete who looks like you can be so inspiring,” She said. 

“It’s so important for both disabled people and able-bodied people to understand this. That’s why I made my Instagram account public – to really open people’s eyes.”

This issue of perception can be the catalyst to both discrimination and micro-aggressions. Able-bodied individuals often base what a disabled person can or can’t do – or what they should or shouldn’t look like – on misconceptions. One common one being that a disabled person must have a visible impediment. 

However, out of the estimated 11 million people in the UK living with some form of disability, 70% have ‘hidden’ disabilities; while only 4% use wheelchairs. 

Awareness of these statistics regarding invisible disabilities is crucial, as the idea of what a disabled athlete should look like can hinder the progress of equality in sports. 

Joshua Johns, a wheelchair tennis player, said: “It’s quite funny to see the reactions when I’m training in a wheelchair and I suddenly just stand up. The assumptions used to bother me, but I’ve grown to get used to it.” 

Joshua, 15, was diagnosed with right sided hemiplegia, which is a form of cerebral palsy. 

Though Joshua is capable of walking without a wheelchair, he faces muscular fatigue, and struggles with long distances. 

“People with invisible disabilities shouldn’t hide the fact that they’re disabled. They should let it be known, even if they’re not ‘disabled enough’ to be accepted,” said Joshua. 

He added: “I’d like people to know we are disabled and we do live a life different from everyone else – but everyone’s ‘normal’ is different. We all still have the same goals and we are still as able as an able-bodied can be.” 

While sports is just one area to focus on, it can be a good example of how hard work and talent can sadly be dismissed due to the misconceptions of disabilities. It’s evident that our perceptions and treatment towards disabled people have a long way to go; but understanding that disabled people should be treated equally and respectfully, regardless of what disability they face, is vital. Only when our perceptions change, will society as a whole be able to evolve. Individuals are disabled not by physical or intellectual impairments, but by a society that does not accommodate difference.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

More than 90 Women Sue the FBI for $1Billion For Mishandling the Nassar Case

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  • More than 90 women and girls, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who were sexually assaulted by the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar plan to sue the FBI for $1 billion for mishandling the credible sexual assault complaints. 
  • The FBI agency’s own watchdog found that the FBI disregarded allegations about Nassar, and in a long-awaited report from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, it was stated that various missteps and cover-ups by FBI agents allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue for more than a year after the case was opened in 2015.
  • The FBI field office took very limited action against Nassar and did not document any investigation or alert other authorities. Also, just two weeks ago, the US Justice Department decided not to prosecute the two FBI agents accused of mishandling the Nassar case. 
  • The plaintiffs’ claim is being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people who have been harmed by negligent actions of the federal government to seek recompense for damages. The plaintiffs are all seeking different amounts for damages, but the total claims amount is expected to surpass $1billion. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Liverpool Fans Tear Gassed by French Police Before Final Match: UK Calls for an Investigation

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  • French police are criticized for firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans waiting to get into the stadium in Paris.
  • The French sports ministry has called a meeting with Uefa (the French Football Association), stadium officials, and police to “draw lessons” from the event.
  • French interior minister Gérald Darmanin appeared to blame British supporters, tweeting on Saturday that thousands were without valid tickets and had forced entry while also claiming that some fans had assaulted stewards.
  • However, Merseyside Police said its officers who were stationed in Paris and attended the match “reported the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed.”
  • Liverpool FC also called for an investigation into the event and said they would be asking fans to contact them directly with their experiences.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

The untold stories of Qatar and the FIFA World Cup

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While many acknowledge deep problems within the host country, one expert says the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

Sports often bring people together, but that doesn’t seem to be happening with FIFA this year.

“Having the world cup in Quatar (sic) just makes me sick and not interested,” said one Twitter user, decrying the alleged abuses against workers who built the stadiums for the World Cup. “Those guys could never afford a ticket to these games, even though they loved the game and worked hard.”

“Give me a free final ticket if Germany played in it, I still won‘t go there. Never,” said another.

Qatar is hosting the World Cup in November, the very first Middle Eastern country to do so. Since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the sporting event, there have been controversies over the way the country was chosen (including allegations of bribing FIFA) as well as scrutiny of the country’s human rights record (over the country’s alleged treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ rights). 

But while many acknowledge deep problems within the country, some say the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

“There’s politics with FIFA and World Cup organizers of Qatar,” said Luv Randhawa, an international singer based in British Columbia, who still hopes to attend his first World Cup this year. “For us as fans, we want to see the best sport.” 

He has conflicting feelings about the “beautiful” stadiums built by migrant workers.

“I look at it in two aspects: I pledge the pride of the people of Qatar for what they’ve done, but I’m also somber about the people who have lost their lives and livelihood because of the building of these buildings that the world is coming to see.”

Umer Hussain, who has a PhD in sports marketing, says while the controversies around Qatar are concerning, they’ve detracted from the positive aspects of the first World Cup since the pandemic.

“One of the goals of FIFA was to grow its own fan base, so that’s why when the FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar, it made me very excited,” said the postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University. 

He noted this World Cup generated around five million jobs. Qatar also changed some of its laws to support the rights of migrant workers and to prevent wage theft. Muslim women are also being encouraged more to play sports as a result of the Cup, Hussain said.

But he added the media has only been focusing on the negative aspects of the host country. 

As far as allegations of corruption go, Hussain points to the Global Transparency Index, whose Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 ranked Qatar as less corrupt than the three previous FIFA hostsRussia, Brazil and South Africa. (Russia also faced controversy over alleged bribery and human rights violations.)

Hussain says the negative portrayal of Qatar as a corrupt country reflects historical stereotyping of Arab countries as inhumane. 

“People think … Qatar wanted to take soft power in the Arab world, that’s why they’re holding this World Cup,” Hussain said, noting Qatar has however lost more than it’s gained from this Cup. 

“There has been a lot of damage already done.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Double Olympic Champion: Losing to Trans Women is About Biology – ‘I Feel Let Down’ 

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Nicola, Wikimedia Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Katie Archibald, the double Olympic champion has criticised the International Olympic Committee and other sports bodies for their transgender policies saying they have not only let down female cyclists by underplaying biology but also left trans women like Emily Bridges to face intense scrutiny. 

“It is my opinion that the international governing bodies of several sports have let down transgender athletes, in particular transgender women, with their inclusion policies,” Archibald said in a statement.

According to Archibald, it was wrong for governing bodies to ignore the science that shows trans women who have gone through male puberty have a retained advantage in strength, stamina and physique. She made it clear that she and other females were also being let down by the unwillingness of sports to accept the importance of biology. 

Sadly, this is just an extension of the policies we have chosen to enact in our society without any regard to their consequences. Following the law for some such as trans results in rights being taken from others such as female athletes in sports. 

“These policies have put the athletes, their involvement in sport, and their personal lives under intense scrutiny when all the athletes have done is follow the rules and enter a category they were encouraged to enter.”

“I feel let down by the International Olympic Committee who tell me there should be no assumed advantage for an athlete with a gender identity different to their sex,” she said.

“I read this and hear that my world titles, my Olympic medals, and the champions jerseys I have at home, were all won in a category of people who simply don’t try as hard as the men. That losing to male androgenisation is not about biology, but mindset. They are wrong.

It’s ironic that women had to live under the tyranny of men for so long but now in a so-called liberal society, we are allowing men to become women and oppress women as women. Katie has shown incredible courage to point out something so obvious that our society continues to ignore with no real questions or fair solutions on offer!

She continued: “The retained advantage of people who have gone through male puberty in strength, stamina, and physique, with or without testosterone suppression, has been well documented.

“Cycling’s global governing body, by its president’s own admission, knows this. But they chose to delay action until it became sadly personal for one rider. That wasn’t fair.”

She also expressed deep sympathy for Bridges, who broke the junior men’s 25-mile record before transitioning in 2020, saying she was only following the rules of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, before it decided to block her racing as a woman last month.

In her statement Archibald also called on governing bodies of sports such as cycling, triathlon and rowing to come together to develop policies based on science, while also making their sport more welcoming for trans athletes. “But I’d like us to do all this without sacrificing one of the foundational pillars of sport: fairness.”

This is a key point, but it is not just limited to sport, in all aspects of society fairness should be a key consideration before making policies that allow individuals to act in a way that is legal but harmful to other individuals. We choose to ignore this principle at our own peril and decisions made in the past are slowly starting to unravel before us. 

When little 8-year-old boys start to transition and when a male swimmer who ranked 554th in men’s competition, becomes one of the top ranked swimmers in women’s competition, it tells us that this question of fairness should have been asked a long time ago! Not just from IOC but from governments and societies at large!

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

Utah Governor Vetoes Bill Targeting Transgender Athletes

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Utah governor vetoes bill that targets transgender athletes
Utah Reps, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, a republican-backed bill was vetoed by the state governor of Utah that barred transgenders from competing with girls in sports in schools.

Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement that while “politically, it would be much easier and better for me to simply sign the bill,” he chose to veto it because he “tried to do what I feel is the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

Mr Cox was the second governor in vetoing the bill as on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill, saying it would likely have been challenged in court and would not have solved any pressing issue.

The two governors’ actions of vetoing the bill are at odds with steps taken in a number of other Republican-led states where transgender rights have become an imminent issue in a broader U.S. culture war over sexuality and gender identity. Whereas governors in states including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa have signed into law bills that ban trans girls from competing in girls’ sports.

In a series of tweets Cox made an emotional plea for compassion toward transgender youth Tuesday in explaining his decision to veto the bill. He said “No other state has done this, and we hoped that Utah could be the first. Unfortunately, that compromise fell apart in the 11th hour of the session.” Regarding transgenders he also tweeted “I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”

Also in a letter to the state’s Senate president and House speaker, the governor said he was moved by the data that shows that among 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, only four were transgender, with just one involved in girls sports.

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” he wrote. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

However Republican legislators plan to override the veto on Friday, as State Senator J. Stuart Adams, a Republican, mentioned in a statement.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Sanctions Against Russia Leave Chelsea Football Club Up for Grabs

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  • Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia.
  • Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich.
  • The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia. Leaving room for potential buyers to submit bids in hopes of taking the Club at a fraction of the cost now that it was transferred to the government. The British government has set Friday as the deadline for any bids.

Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich. Strict sanctions connected to Russia’s occupation in Ukraine have hit multiple Russian oligarchs. This has caused an opening in the world market where many top Russian business owners held assets. 

Bayrak also intended on offering Abramovich $400 million of his company’s cryptocurrency and the transfer of certain real estate projects to the Russian billionaire. The Turkish investor is set to meet with Abramovich later this week in Turkey to receive his blessing for any deal. The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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