The former wife of Beatles star Paul McCartney was accused Thursday of lunging at a Paralympic official in a fit of rage and screaming insults after being forced to abandon her attempt to qualify for the British skiing team for next year's games.
Heather Mills' hopes of competing in Sochi ended Monday when the International Paralympic Committee ruled that a new prosthetic she was using hadn't been ratified by the governing body. An application for a place in Britain's team was withdrawn.
IPC spokesman Craig Spence told The Associated Press that the 45-year-old Mills "flew into a rage" when she confronted ski committee head Sylvana Mestre at a team captains' meeting in a hotel in Austria on Monday. She then swore at the official and said "you don't know who I am, I'm going to make your life miserable."
"Sylvana is deeply upset, traumatized," Spence said. "She (Mills) verbally abused Sylvana, and started to push her. There were 10 witnesses in the room who saw what went on." Mills will likely be fined up to 1,000 euros ($1,370) and the incident will be referred to the IPC's legal and ethics committee for its consideration.
Mills has been one of the most high-profile athletes attempting to qualify for the Sochi Paralympics, having begun a career in skiing soon after she divorced McCartney in 2008. She lost her left leg below the knee in 1993 when she was involved in a road accident with a police motorcycle. She also suffered crushed ribs, a punctured lung and multiple fractures of the pelvis in the accident.
A former model, Mills is also a well-known charity campaigner and goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. "Para-athletes are role models and an inspiration to billions of people around the world," Spence said in an IPC statement released Thursday. "We understand the pressure athletes are under in the lead-up to Sochi 2014 and that Heather has been working extremely hard to achieve her goal.
"However, there can be no excuse for such aggressive and intimidating behavior towards such a highly respected and experienced official within the Paralympic Movement." Mills joined the British disability skiing team in 2010 and has shown marked improvement over the last two years, winning a silver medal in a World Cup adaptive slalom event in New Zealand in 2013.
Mills had been using the correct adaptive equipment until she changed this summer to a new leg and boot design created by the London Prosthetics Centre. She was told by the IPC that she had to wear a cover over her prosthetic, but Mills complained that the cover locks to her leg below the knee and causes "unnecessary weight" and "intolerable pain" on her limb
The issue was discussed in that meeting in Austria after IPC officials discovered at a Europa Cup event that day that Mills was not complying with the ruling. Although not officially allowed to attend, Mills sat "peacefully and quietly" during the meeting, according to Spence, but wasn't part of a Skype conversation between Mestre and a technical director in Canada, who ruled Mills' boot shouldn't be approved.
"However, we were going to propose a solution that if she filled in a new adaptable equipment form and got written assurances from the manufacturer of her prostheses and boots that if there was an accident, they would cover the liability, then we would sign that off as an approved piece of equipment," Spence said, adding that her season's results up to now would have stood.
The BBC reported Thursday that Mills' coach, John Clarke, is planning to make a formal complaint about Mestre's behavior, claiming there is a "vendetta" against Mills. Mills wasn't immediately available for comment. The British Paralympic Association referred to a statement issued Monday which confirmed Mills had withdrawn from the team with immediate effect.