Fury at ban on Down's skater

A DECISION to exclude a teenage boy from competitive figure skating because he suffers from Down's syndrome has provoked an outcry in Italy.

Mauro Muscas, aged 17, from Sardinia, finished third in the regional rollerskating championships earlier this month, and his club wanted him to continue in qualifiers for the national championship. But despite doctors' certificates proving he is physically up to the task, Mauro has been told he can no longer take part in any competitive skating events because of his intellectual disability.

The current law prohibits mentally disabled people from practising competitive sport except in events reserved for athletes with handicaps. Mauro, who is in his third year of high school in Cagliari, is a natural sportsman. He first took up skating at the age of nine, and spends every spare moment at the rink. The news that he could not go to the national championships has left him perplexed and sad.

Mauro's mother, Antonietta, vowed she would fight for her son's right to fair treatment. "If this is the law, it can be changed. Mauro was penalised at birth by having an extra chromosome but he should not be further discriminated against," she said.

"Thanks to sport Mauro's condition has improved tremendously and when he skates he forgets that he has Down's syndrome. Until now he has always measured himself against other `normal' sportsmen so why should that change just because he is having success?"

The 1978 law appears to have been passed with the aim of protecting people with mental handicaps from the potential psychological hazards of competitive sport.

Italy's Health Minister, Rosy Bindi, has promised to review the legislation to remove any aspects that could be anachronistic or discriminatory against those with disabilities.

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