Rio 2016: Vervoort moves to clarify euthanasia reports
Belgian para-cyclist Marieke Vervoort held a news conference in Rio on Sunday to clarify reports regarding her contemplation of euthanasia.
Vervoort, who suffers from an incurable and degenerative spinal condition, earned a silver medal in the women's T52 400 metre final at the Paralympics on Saturday, having finished first and second in the respective 100m and 200m races at London 2012.
The 37-year-old has been the focus of much attention, after it was reported she intends to end her life following the Rio Games, with euthanasia legalised in Belgium.
Although Vervoort did sign euthanasia papers in 2008, she insists reporting of the matter up to now has not been accurate.
"First of all, I think there is a great mistake about what press told in Belgium," she said. "They used the title that I quit after Rio and right after Rio, the Paralympic Games, that I go over to euthanise. This is totally out of the question.
"Yes, this is my last Paralympic Games. I have a progressive disease and I signed my euthanasia papers already in 2008, because it's really, really hard to handle and to suffer with this disease.
"The euthanasia, it gives me a feeling of rest. I can live with a good feeling. Whatever happens, I have my papers in my hand. But I'm still enjoying every little moment. When the moment comes that I have more bad days than good days, then I have my euthanasia papers. But the time is not there yet."
Vervoort described training and racing as "like a medicine for me", adding: "I push so hard, to push all my fear, all my anger, everything away."
Belgium is one of few countries to have legalised euthanasia, with assisted dying the subject of significant debate in many parts of the world.
Speaking openly about the issue, Vervoort said: "I hope that euthanasia is something, for every country, that does not mean murder. That it means that it gives a feeling of rest to the people.
"If I didn't have those papers, I think I would already have [committed] suicide, because it's very hard to live with so much pain and suffering. I'm really glad with those papers. I'm still alive and can still enjoy every little moment in my life.
"I have got those papers in my hand and I know when it's too far, when it's too much for me, then I have my own life in my hands. But still then you have to talk to the doctors again if you are sure that this is the right decision and the right moment for you.
"It means a lot for me and I hope that other countries like Brazil [where euthanasia is illegal] can talk about it and that it's no taboo any more - that it makes people live longer.
"It doesn't mean when they sign the papers, they have to die two weeks after, or a few days after. I signed my papers in 2008. Now we are 2016 and I won yesterday [Saturday] the silver medal, it's really a wonder, so I'm really happy."