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Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
By JERRY WOLFFE
Of The Oakland Press
For more than two years, world and national champion triathlete Aaron Scheidies, formerly of Farmington, has tried to get American and Canadian triathlon officials to dump the rule that requires him to wear “black out glasses” during competition.
He repeatedly told officials of the USA Triathlon, International Triathlon Union and 3-D Racing LLC requiring him to wear the glasses is not an accommodation but makes the visually impaired athlete more disabled.
Scheidies filed a lawsuit April 24 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan saying the rule violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. He argued that requiring a visually impaired person to compete completely sightless puts the athlete and those around him at risk.
On Wednesday, the ITU failed to respond within the required 24 days to the federal lawsuit filed in Detroit. The other two defendants also failed to respond to the lawsuit.
Such default means the plaintiffs, Scheidies and his attorney, Richard Bernstein of Farmington Hills, will meet with Duggan and rewrite the regulations regarding accommodations given those with disabilities in triathlon events under the ADA as well as reviewing how the organizations classify disabled runners in categories based on their level of disability.
“It is medically dangerous and ethically wrong,” says Scheidies, who is also a physical therapist and now lives in the Seattle area, of making him wear blackout glasses.
“If you have any degree of blindness, you live every day trying to succeed with the vision you have. To succeed and be an independent person is not about how much vision you have. It is how well you accommodate or adapt to the vision you have.
“This is the last thing I would want to do to anybody,” Scheidies said. “I have tried to work with them for two years” but just kept getting the run-around.
Bernstein, who is blind, said, “We will rewrite their rules for competitors.”
If the rules that will be revised are not accepted by the triathlon organizations, Duggan can find each or all in contempt of court.
“When you refuse to answer a summons, you go into default and basically don’t have the chance to put up a defense,” Bernstein said of the organization’s failure to respond to the federal lawsuit within the required time limit.
“This is the highest form of disrespect you could possibly show to the federal courts,” he added. “These folks think they don’t have to answer to anyone and can do whatever they want to do.”
Bernstein, Duggan and Scheidies will now start working on revising the regulations of the organizations until they reach what is termed “perfecting the default judgment.” The results are then imposed upon the defendants as new guidelines.
The defendants could not be reached Friday for comment.
Scheidies’ triathlon career is not over. The 30-year-old plans to compete in the June 17 Motor City Triathlon on Belle Isle.
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