Blind Irish runner Kane to run in France after having bar lifted

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Sinead Kane began her feat of seven marathons in seven continents in the space of a week in Antarctica in January 2017
Sinead Kane (left) ran seven marathons in seven continents in the space of a week in 2017

Blind Cork runner Sinead Kane will compete for Ireland at this weekend's World 24-Hour Championships in France after having the bar on representing her country overturned.

The 37-year-old was initially told that she would not be able to race for Ireland in Albi, near Toulouse, because she required a guide.

However, Kane took a legal action in Monaco against the International Association of Ultrarunners' (IAU) decision and this proved successful on Wednesday as the sport's world governing body eventually agreed to reverse its decision.

"I have won my discrimination fight against the IAU," said Kane, whose case was highlighted by BBC Sport NI earlier this month.

"They are being forced not to be discriminatory."

The Youghal woman has less than 5% vision but has forged a career as one of her country's best ultra runners after only taking up the sport in 2012.

A qualified solicitor, Kane achieved the required standard for the championships when she ran 204.5km in a 24-hour race in Crawley in April.

Sinead Kane only began running 2012
Sinead Kane achieved the World 24-Hour Championship standard in Crawley last April

However, ultra running's world governing body said an IAAF rule which forbids use of guide runners would preclude Kane from representing Ireland in France, adding that she would be permitted to compete as an individual in the concurrently-run open race.

After being informed of this by the IAU in July, Athletics Ireland did not select Kane for the World Championships although the national governing body last month told her that she would have been added to the four-strong women's squad if the IAAF rule wasn't being enforced.

The IAU's former executive director, Irishman Richard Donovan, led the campaign to have Kane's bar from the championships overturned and the athlete spoke of her gratitude to the Galway man.

"Richard has been with me since the beginning of the case. He has supported me through the ups and downs and has been instrumental in giving his knowledge to my legal team about ultra running and help formulate strategy."

'Legal precedent set for all disabled people'

Irish running great Sonia O'Sullivan also backed a case which Donovan, formerly the supremo of Irish ultra running, described as "discrimination being defended and supported by the IAU".

Speaking on Thursday, Donovan told BBC Sport NI that Kane's legal representatives had used Article 14 of the European Convention for Protection of Human Rights to successfully argue the blind athlete's case.

The legal action was taken in Monaco because that is the location where the IAU is registered.

"As Sinead is T12 [Paralympic] classified, we pointed out that an athlete with that serious degree of blindness can have two guides and those guides should specifically not be considered pacing or assistance according to paralympic rules," added Donovan.

"Hence the IAU was discriminating in trying to exclude her on the basis they could be assistance and the IAU ultimately agreed.

"We received a judgement in our favour forcing the IAU to enforce what we agreed and it looks like a legal precedent has been set for all disabled people.

"It's a big win for disability rights".

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