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NYC Marathon Sued

October 19, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Six people sued the organizers of the New York City Marathon on Wednesday, saying the race discriminates against disabled athletes.

An organizer of the event for some disabled athletes called the claim ``truly frivolous.″

Bob Laufer, coordinator of the marathon’s new wheelchair division, said the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan despite the race’s ``amazing accommodations to the disabled.″

``We treat them very, very well and we end up with two lawsuits in two years,″ said Laufer, who also is the general counsel for the New York Road Runners Club, the race organizer.

A year ago, a suit filed in Brooklyn federal court caused the Road Runners Club to agree to a separate wheelchair division and to award trophies to the winners at this year’s Nov. 5 marathon.

The wheelchair racers will start at 10:20 a.m., a half hour before the rest of the competitors.

Wednesday’s lawsuit resulted when the starting time for a group of about 60 disabled people was moved from 8 to 8:50 a.m., meaning some would be competing in the dark.

The plaintiffs aren’t seeking money. They asked a judge to restore the earlier starting time because they said the current rules violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit also said each disabled person was being limited to a single guide to assist them, though Laufer said such a rule was considered but was rejected.

Laufer said the earlier start would prevent a bottleneck at the narrow entrance of the 59th Street Bridge.

He said he would prefer to limit the number of guides to one per contestant because as many as eight guides to a single runner tend to spread across the road, presenting obstacles for the other 30,000 competitors.

He said it would be dangerous to change the start time for the disabled participants to 8 a.m. but he was ready to do so if the court ordered it.

Adam Stengel, a lawyer who filed the suit, did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Wednesday.

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