Six-time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen slammed Transportation Security Administration on Sunday after one its field agents forced her to undergo an “embarrassing” full body search.
The former swimmer, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in 2014, was traveling through Denver International Airport, Colorado, with her husband when security officials pulled her out of the line for a security check.
Since the 43-year-old has the TSA Precheck certification, an expedited program that makes airport security a smoother process, she told a female agent the normal procedure is to swab her hands and feet for explosives and pat down her wheelchair. However, instead of following the protocol, the agent went to get her supervisor.
“I obviously cannot go through the metal detector,” Van Dyken-Rouen recalled telling the TSA official. “With the wheelchair and the rods in my back, that thing will [light] up like a Christmas tree.”
However, things took a turn for worst when the supervisor demanded a full body search.
“He said, literally every other airport is wrong and any other time you've flown through Denver and they didn't do that, it's wrong, I'm right,” the Olympian said. “It's really sad, I just want to help other people out who don't have a voice, just fair treatment for everybody, respect for everybody, that's all we need.”
Despite being wheelchair-bound, the TSA agents did not provide the former athlete with a private room and searched her in full view of other passengers.
With the positive in my journey, there is also negative. Need to make changes for all in ♿️. @denairport @tsa pre check officer was rude, and in correct. Said every airport in country BUT Den is doing it wrong. Had a full body pat down, and was humiliated by him as well. Thank you STSO Keith Rogers!!! I'm going to find out if the rest of the country is wrong, or if HE is wrong. I'll get back to you. 😘
“They go around your breasts, they basically go under your butt and the just grab things, not grab, they touch things that are not appropriate and it's really embarrassing,” Van Dyken-Rouen added. “It's really sad, I just want to help other people out who don't have a voice, just fair treatment for everybody, respect for everybody, that's all we need.”
The social media post detailing her harrowing experience shortly began making rounds on the internet, prompting TSA officials to apologize for the behavior of their agent.
The agency even released a statement on Monday following the backlash:
“TSA works closely with the disability community to develop screening procedures that integrate the unique needs of those with disabilities or medical issues into the process. TSA reviews passenger complaints, and in this case determined that our officers did not follow correct screening protocols when Ms. Amy Van Dyken came through the security checkpoint at Denver International Airport (DEN) this weekend. TSA’s federal security director has reached out to Ms. Van Dyken. The officers involved are undergoing retraining, and TSA Denver is providing refresher training to all of its officers as well.”
If our sports heroes have to go through such humiliation and embarrassment, one can only imagine what normal disabled people must go through during the security screenings at the airports.