Following a storm of negativity, the organisers of the VHI Women’s Mini-Marathon have agreed to allow a blind female athlete to run using a male guide.
Sinead Kane is a visually impaired solicitor, blogger and keen athlete who participated in the Dublin Mini-Marathon in 2012.
But this year she was advised that she couldn’t because the guide she runs with is a male, John O’Regan.
Kane used social media to express her disappointment with the decision.
As blind female runner saddens me the decision that I am not allowed male guide to "assist" me in race. If I could see I would run myself!— Dr. Sinead Kane (@KaneSinead) March 11, 2015
Can anyone in Ireland please explain 2me why as a blind runner I am denied the right 2have a "male" guide in a Dublin race??? #disability— Dr. Sinead Kane (@KaneSinead) March 11, 2015
The organisers offered to arrange a replacement guide, but Kane has been training with O’Regan since last year and in February ran a 50k ultra-marathon with him as a guide.
She spoke to Anton Savage on Today FM this morning and said she found that offer insulting to her as an athlete.
“I don’t want them picking any random person out of the sky,” Kane said on the show. “It’s very degrading to me - ‘oh, we’ll just find her anybody to get her around’.
“I’m there because I want to compete.”
The mini-marathon organisers have now reversed their initial decision.
In a Facebook post the organisers said: “The Women’s Mini Marathon Limited has reviewed its policy relating to visually impaired and wheelchair entrants. To preserve the female character of the event only females can enter.
"However, we appreciate that some visually impaired or wheelchair entrants need assistance.
"We have changed our policy in this respect and will welcome both male and female assistants for these entrants. Male assistants will be given a special permit to allow access, while female assistants can either enter the event or receive a special permit.”
If you cannot see the post click here.
Visually impaired woman Sinead Kane and her guide John O'Regan WILL compete in the Mini Marathon after a U-turn by organisers— Today FM News (@TodayFMNews) March 12, 2015
Breakingnews.ie spoke to the organisers about the controversy.
Some commentators had pointed out that men dressed as women were a regular feature of the event, but the mini-marathon spokesperson confirmed that this was not officially permitted and the men registered for the event under female names.
The spokesperson also confirmed that when Kane ran in 2012 it was with a female guide. This was the first time the issue of a male guide had arisen.
Generally runners who were operating as guides simply entered the race as participants.