The International Paralympics Committee President Andrew Parsons has urged the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to reconsider their decision to not include wheelchair tennis in this year’s edition of the US Open scheduled from 31 August to 13 September.
Parsons, in a statement, said: “The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is disappointed at the US Open’s decision not to include wheelchair tennis in this September’s event, a decision that has left a lot of the athlete community rightly upset and angered. We urge organisers to reconsider this decision which could potentially undo years of great work to promote and showcase the sport of wheelchair tennis.
“We appreciate that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up multiple challenges for sport event organisers all around the world, but such challenges should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against a group of players and not offer inclusive competition for all.
“There has been tremendous progress in recent years to advance wheelchair tennis and promote inclusion, not least by USTA and at the US Open. However, just as we cannot have a situation where athletes are barred from sporting events on the grounds of race, gender, nationality or sexuality, they should not be stopped from competing because they play in a wheelchair.
“I am grateful that the International Tennis Federation is speaking with event organisers to try and find a solution to ensure that wheelchair tennis players can safely compete at the US Open.”
Chelsey Gotell, chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council, added: “After decades of progress in wheelchair tennis, this feels like a regressive step. We fully appreciate that just now it is a difficult task to put on any sporting event. Safety of athletes is our number one priority too, but if you can securely host tournaments for male and female athletes, then you can put them on for wheelchair athletes who want to compete as well.
“I’m also disappointed at the lack of consultation here. It has been an incredibly challenging year for Para athletes, many of whom make a modest income from sport. To make decisions that directly impacts on their welfare and not communicate with them seems misguided. I hope that USTA rectifies this and includes athletes in all further discussions.”