Stewarts Law quadriplegic trainee takes London Marathon to court after race entry refused

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  • With some sympathy for Matt King, the Marathon should be trying to settle this case and find a way to reverse what is a PR disaster. The writing up here implies that the London Marathon has no control over its own rules; that cannot be so - are they sure? The uncomfortable truth is that motorised chairs do not blend well with an "able bodied" running melee, but the useful comparator here is to see how the Paralympians compete. Send in Boris...

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  • It a physical challenge for him of course, an undeniable one. However, a few things trouble me. I am not a lawyer and have no legal training, my thoughts are simple - perhaps naive - lay perspectives.

    1. His assertion that it's largely a matter of principle now hints at a more general agenda of rights of accessibility than a specific desire to taken part in this event.

    2. How do we create a level playing field. This is the perennial problem with paralympic sports and the categorisation of them. He would presumably be in a class of one as he could not be considered competitive against the manual wheel chairs nor the able-bodied athletes. This type of exception could be seen by some as indicative of breadth in participation or a selfish side-show. I don't think it's that dissimilar an argument to the decision to ban multi-day attempts on the course as popularised by Lloyd Scott ('snail man').

    3. It strikes me that the NYC marathon and others have made an exception for him against the regulations of the World Marathon Majors, UK Athletics and the IAAF and that these regulations are a very sensible part of making the competition comparable and contestable over a consistent ratified course distance and conditions. Once individuals are accommodated in the mass or wheelchair start on specific terms we begin to erode this international equality. The irony of 'equality' here is not lost on me and I accept that this argument has much to say about 'inclusivity'. It therefore needs to be a global agreement about the use of such chairs and the creation of a category and series of regulations to ensure quadriplegics can compete together. For example, standardising the technology.

    4. I would rather individuals didn't take aim at organisations such as The London Marathon with a personal agenda but rather built a case to present to the IAAF and WMM as a whole to support their inclusion, otherwise it begins to look very much like a personal vendetta rather than an objective an reasoned argument for inclusive participation amongst quadriplegics alongside other paralympic athletes.

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  • Whilst King is obviously a courageous and tenacious individual I can't see that he - or anyone else for that matter - can claim a legal right to take part in what is essentially a private event.

    The exclusion of motorised vehicles seems entirely reasonable to me, and the aggressive approach adopted by King is likely to alienate many people, not generate support.

    The one certainty is that money that LM should have been using for charitable causes will end up in lawyers' pockets.

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  • Well if the rules were clear, the exclusion is correct. Why should the rules apply to one person and not another? Positive discrimination is almost as bad as negative discrimination. The rules may well be unfair, but that's a matter for the rule makers to change, not a matter over which the court may punish the rule makers in some way - and yes, civil compensation can most definitely be used as punishment despite what text books say. This guy should have raised the issue out of court rather than wasting time and money in adversarial court proceedings. To me, this sounds like a personal vendetta rather than a positive attempt to include disabled persons in sport.

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  • From everything I have read, Matt King comes across as an inspirational and immensely brave young man and I applaud him wholeheartedly. Of course London Marathon should find a way to allow him to participate.

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  • The specific entry condition in question appears to be this: "2.5 If you are entered into the wheelchair section of the event, you are only permitted to use a self-propelled wheelchair without gears or any mechanical, powered or electronic aid or device. If in the elite wheelchair section of the Event you will only use a racing wheelchair approved by us." This is actually quite a narrow glass of participants - its purpose seems to be that people must actually move the wheels of the wheelchair themselves (presumably by hand/wrist/elbow whatnot). I know nothing about discrimination/PI law, but if the category of eligible wheelchair entrants were expanded, is it not possible that those currently eligible to enter the wheelchair sections would feel discriminated against? The whole thing is fraught with difficulty.

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  • Anonymous @ 3.13pm
    You clearly have no understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act. Plus how do you know the matter wasn't raised pre-litigation? Given the focus on pre-action protocols it almost certainly was - it is the London Marathon's refusal to permit his entry which will lead to wasted money - not his enforcement of his own legal rights.

    Anonymous @ 3.03pm
    Since when was the London Marathon a private event? Seems very much open to the general public to me or is 36,000 people from all walks of life and of varying agility and able-bodiness too small a sample?

    If he wants to take part then I say more power to his motorised wheelchair.

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  • It seems to me that the people who comment under anonymous, are the people who judge the most. I am sure if it was you, or someone you Love in the position of Matt King, then your feelings may be different. It surprises me that there are so many people, who do not know this man, that are accusing him of fighting this for the wrong reasons. I would urge people to read other articles, as I have, which would almost certainly change your opinion of him. If I was unfortunate enough to be in this position, I could only dream and hope that I would continue to live my life to the full, to the best of my ability. Just like Matt.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and this is mine. I just wish people wouldn't be so shallow, and take off their rose tinted glasses for a second. And maybe, imagine yourself in his position for a second.

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  • "It seems to me that the people who comment under anonymous, are the people who judge the most." So says the person posting anonymously. Judge away.

    Even having discovered more about Matt's circumstances I'm not inclined to change my view. This isn't about lacking empathy - and of course none of us who are not in his condition can truly understand it - we must remain objective and see how this affects every participant, not just Matt.

    This is not about one man's sense of injustice but about a general principle of competitive fairness. What's lost in the debate thus far is that the marathon is a race, a competitive event. For my part I would also argue that the mass participation part of the race has grown to the detriment of the competitive part of the marathon. I'm not suggesting that the inclusion or exclusion of one additional person will change that but that the principle of competitive sport is at risk if exception after exception is allowed.

    What happens when another individual requests a place and they use a motorised form powered by a different method with different performance characteristics? Do the rules need changing again or do the rules get broadened to include anyone that can get round the 26.2 regardless of personal mode of transport and without categorisation of their physical ability? How do you begin to account for the massive variation in paralysis or this kind and the chairs/solutions deployed to augment the suffer's physical capabilities?

    Matt is competing against himself, as are all runners and wheelchair users but unlike those categories he is not in competition with any other person that could be considered comparable. His course of action should have been a lobby and the provocation of a debate to the organising bodies (as I said above) for wholesale change in paralympic categorisation.

    The argument around logistics and safety is tenuous of course as he has proved it to be possible in NYC and at the Great North Run (both of which have larger participant numbers than London) however we can't completely ignore the inherent dangers of being part of the mass start. Last year elite wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy from Canada famously collided with Elite female runner Tiki Gelana at a feed station. If this can happen in the Elite fields with considerable space on the roads, imagine the difficulty of managing the safety for Matt and runners around him as he would be moving slower than many runners in the mass start. As he's said himself it requires a team of five runners around him and a bike or two. The race begins to be skewed to support one individual and I'm just not sure that's fair. Even when he started at the back in NYC he moved through the field which can't have been easy for him or the participants he was moving through, having to get out of the way for the support team. That race involved battery changes at the mid-way point and police sweeper escort as he finished after hours. Volunteers and race organisers have to remain at the finish for the last runner. Are the roads kept closed while he finishes? Is that cost and practicality reasonable to bear?

    As a marathon runner myself I can assure you that we all have our personal challenges, Matt's will be very different to mine but no more or less personal. We all want to achieve something amazing. I have learned to accept that I may not achieve certain things in my life thanks to physical shortcomings. That list is much smaller than Matt's of course, but a level of acceptance is a part of a balanced attitude to life. I wish Matt all the best with his next challenge but I believe, for the moment, that the London Marathon are right to refuse him.

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  • I am a blind archer.
    I want to use miniature guided non-explosive missiles in the next archery competition or else I will sue.

    To the inevitable shallow, sneering critics, imagine yourself in my position, and think of how hard it must be for me as a blind archer. I am sure if it was you, or someone you love in my place, then your feelings may be different.

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