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Back in The Game

An athlete with Down syndrome is (finally) cleared to play again

Down syndrome couldn't keep Eric Dompierre from playing high school football and basketball, and now it appears that Michigan's athletic governing body won't stop him either. Dompierre (below), 19, played three seasons at Ishpeming High as a kicker and as a seldom-used 5'1" guard. But he was going to be barred from his final seasons this year because of an MHSAA rule requiring students to be 18 or younger on Sept. 1 (SI, POINT AFTER, April 9). He's older than most students in his grade because he started kindergarten late due to his disability.

Dompierre's chances of playing in 2012 looked bleak when the MHSAA twice rejected proposals from his father, Dean, to allow age-limit exceptions for students with physical limitations. But in May, after a petition gathered 90,000 signatures, the organization relented and voted to allow students with disabilities to apply for waivers. On Aug. 8 the executive committee is scheduled to rule on Dompierre's waiver application and is expected to grant him eligibility.

"We're grateful to everyone across the country who supported him," Dean Dompierre says. "Now we're hoping that the other 26 or so states that still exclude kids like Eric will take Michigan's lead and institute waiver policies of their own."