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Former Terrorist Turned Paralympic Champ
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 22, 2004

ATHENS, GREECE--Sunday, Spanish Paralympic swimmer Sebastian "The Bull" Rodriguez took the gold medal in the Men's 200m Freestyle S5. Rodriguez broke his old record from the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, setting a new world record at 2:41:87.

Some Spanish sports fans are not applauding wildly, however, according to Wednesday's The Guardian.

Rodriguez is known throughout the country as a former terrorist, responsible in part for the 1983 killing of a Spanish business leader. The murder was one of 75 known to have been committed by the First of October Revolutionary Group (Grapo), to which Rodriguez belonged. In 1985 he was sentenced to 84 years in prison.

Rodriguez has been paralyzed below the waist since 1990, when he went on a 432-day hunger strike in an effort to persuade prison authorities to place fellow Grapo members in the same jail. His attorneys were not able to convince a court to keep prison authorities from force-feeding him.

After Rodriguez was released from prison in the mid-90s, he began training for the Paralympics.

He won five gold medals in Sydney, telling authorities he became paralyzed in a car accident.

"Everybody can judge me as they like," he said this week. "The past is there, and it cannot be wiped out."

Rodriguez is not the only Paralympian to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Spaniards, or other Paralympic athletes. After the Sydney Games, it was revealed that 10 of the 12 members of Spain's gold-medal winning basketball team in the intellectual disabilities category did not have any disabilities. The team members had to return their gold medals.

All athletes with intellectual disabilities have since been banned from the Paralympics.

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