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World of Sport

07th Apr 2022

Irish athlete told by Paralympic Committee he couldn’t compete as one of his arms is 1cm too long

Lee Costello

“I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere.”

Eoin Duffy is a disabled athlete who has dedicated the last three years of his life training for the upcoming Commonwealth games.

The Armagh runner was born with one arm shorter than the other, and although he received national classification as a Paralympic athlete in 2019, he has now been told by the International Paralympic Committee that he doesn’t qualify, because his arm is 1cm too long.

“They measured from my shoulder down to my elbow. My disability only really starts at my elbow,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Then they took another measurement from my elbow down to my finger, so when they added them both together, it actually made my left arm a lot longer than my right. My arm is actually bent, so they measured it as if it was straight.

“Paralympic sports are meant to be inclusive, but yet they’ve excluded me from it. Three of my fingers on my left hand are closed over and my index finger is the only one that can straighten fully,” he said.

“They were literally pulling at my index finger to get it as straight as they could and it wasn’t even in a relaxed state. They were just taking measurement and measurement after measurement.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. The head of Athletics NI was sitting there saying: ‘One centimetre does not give him an advantage, why are you doing this?’

“I didn’t even realise what he said until I got out of the room and the head of Athletics NI said to me: ‘Did you hear what he said to you?’ I just couldn’t believe he actually said it. They’ve just ripped everything away for me, and for him to joke about it, that is just heartless.

“I wanted to quit. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. It’s as if they didn’t even look at me as an individual, they just looked at the book and said: ‘No, he doesn’t fit in, we don’t care how the disability affects him’.

(Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Commonwealth Games Federation / Birmingham 2022 )

“I felt awful. I was back to being the odd one out, and I felt like: ‘I don’t even fit in here anymore’.

“I felt ashamed at being in the same hotel as the other athletes. I’m not a para athlete anymore. They’ve taken that away from me now.

“If Paralympics Ireland didn’t think I had a case, I would have no chance, but luckily they are equally disgusted.

“We’re going to talk through the process, but the Commonwealth Games window closes on April 25. If I was classified, I’d be going to the Commonwealth Games.

“Now, because the appeals process could take maybe two to three months, I’ve no chance of going to them.”