06/09/2016 15:34 BST | Updated 06/09/2016 15:53 BST

Marieke Vervoort Considering Euthanasia After Rio Paralympics Due To Painful Degenerative Illness

'I have to fight day and night against my disease'

Gold and silver Paralympian medalist Marieke Vervoort says she is considering euthanasia after competing in the Rio Olympics.

The Belgian wheelchair sprinter, who suffers from an incurable and painful degenerative spinal disease, plans to retire as an athlete after the tournament, which runs from 7 – 18 September.

Confined to a wheelchair since 2000, the 37-year-old has also spoken of ending her life via euthanasia, which is legal under Belgian law provided there is written consent from three doctors.

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Marieke Vervoort won a gold medal in the 100m sprint and silver in 200m in the T52 class in the London 2012 Olympics 

She told RTL radio: “I will stop my career after the Rio Paralympics. After, we shall see what life brings for me… I started thinking about euthanasia.”

Speaking to French media she added: “Rio is my last wish. I train very hard even if I have to fight day and night against my disease. On my chair, my frustrations leave. I hope to finish my career on a podium in Rio.

“Everyone sees me laugh with my gold medal but no one sees the dark side. I suffer greatly, sometimes sleeping only ten minutes a night and still go for the gold.”

Speaking to Le Parisiene in July, the athlete revealed she had already envisaged her funeral. There will be no church, and no cakes. Instead, “I want everyone to have a glass of champagne in hand, and a thought for me,” she said.

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Vervoort celebrates as she wins gold at London 2012 

According to statistics, the number of reported euthanasia cases in Belgium has risen from 953 reported in 2010 to 1,807 in 2013. The Institut Europeen de Bioethique says “this increase is due to the ‘gradual release of information to the public and physicians.’”

Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under English law.

Depending on the circumstances, euthanasia is regarded as either manslaughter or murder and is punishable by law with a maximum penalty of up to life imprisonment.

Assisted suicide is illegal under the terms of the 1961 Suicide Act and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Attempting to commit suicide is not a criminal act in itself.