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Friday, October 27, 2000

Paralympians rising to new heights
Athletes with disabilities have been scooping up condoms at a record pace during their games in Sydney

JAMES CHRISTIE

TORONTO -- One of the messages of the Paralympic Games in Sydney is the need to get rid of barriers. Athletes with disabilities want to be seen the way Olympians are seen, as sport performers.

Medical staff at the athletes' village report that Paralympians and Olympians are even on one score -- their demand for condoms.

Wheelchairs and prostheses don't pose any barrier at all, it seems, as young, athletes driven by hormones have scooped up 50,000 condoms in the first eight days in the village. That equals about seven condoms an athlete or official staying at the Games village.

Condoms and lubricants in an assortment of colours and flavours are dispensed from a giant goldfish bowl in the medical centre. It is being refilled every day.

"I suspect 50,000 have been used," village medical program manager Patsy Trethowan told Agence France-Presse. She said a second batch of 20,000 condoms has been shipped in.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee isn't sure how many of the condoms have been picked up by the country's 162 athletes. The CPC doesn't specifically forbid sexual activity in the Games agreement signed by athletes.

"It's consistent with the sort of agreement Olympic athletes sign. It covers harassment and discipline issues, but we don't get between consenting adults," said Rob Needham, CPC program co-ordinator. "If an adult were involved with a minor, that would come under harassment and be subject to discipline."

Kathy Power, the Canadian team's media manager said from Sydney that "we try to keep a fairly tight rein on athletes, at least until the competition is done. But it's a fun atmosphere, with a lot of young people, and when the pressure is off, they want to cut loose."

Sex is off limits to Canadian swimmers. Needham said they all sign on to the same code of conduct as the Olympic team, barring sexual activity, disruptive behaviours and alcohol.

"The swim team is all quite young, several of them under 18, but they swim every day, all week long and they don't have time to think of that stuff anyway," Power said.

Australian swimmers apparently don't have that kind of restriction. Swimmer Alex Harris, after winning silver in the 100-metre freestyle Wednesday, happily told reporters: "I'm gonna get sex tonight".

Athletes are meeting at a steamy nightclub inside the village , which has been jammed to capacity with partying Paralympians who show that dirty dancing is possible in wheelchairs. A lambada contest was won by a Kuwaiti pentathlete who whipped off his shirt, did wheelchair handstands, grabbed a female entertainer from a Brazilian dance company, kissed her stomach and sat her on his lap.

Olympic athletes tended to leave the village to explore the Harbour, but the Paralympians stay in because the club is more accessible.

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