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April 18th, 2012
02:10 PM ET

Down syndrome student fights to keep playing sports

By Ted Rowlands, CNN

Ishpeming, Michigan (CNN) -  Eric Dompierre has Down syndrome, but he's been welcome to play sports with other kids in Ishpeming Michigan since he was in elementary school. When he got to high school, Eric was invited to keep playing.

Now he's on both the Ishpeming High School football and basketball teams. He attends every practice and works out with the other players and if it's appropriate he plays a few minutes at the end of the game.

During this season's basketball playoffs Eric brought the house down. The team after maintaining a nice lead put Eric in the game and he hit a three-point shot against rival Negaunee High School.

"I was on the left side behind the three-point line and they passed me the ball," Dompierre says smiling as he recounts the game. "I heard the fans, including my mom crying."

Even though Eric is only a junior, his high school sports career may be over. Eric turned 19 in January, which puts him six months over the maximum age limit to play. Eric was held back in kindergarten because of his disability.

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According to the constitution of the Michigan High School Athletic League, students who turn 19 before September 1 are not allowed to compete in sports. The rule is intended to prevent the possibility of injury or competitive advantage from an older more developed athlete playing against younger students.

For the past two years Eric's parents, with the support of the Ishpeming High School District, have tried to get the rule changed so Eric can play during his senior year.

But a committee with the Michigan High School Athletic Association has refused two proposals which would allow kids like Eric to participate.

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Filed under: Disabilities • Discrimination • Education • Sports • Who we are
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