Formula One racing legend Michael Schumacher is paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair, and suffering from memory and speech problems, according to a former racing driver who claims to have visited the seven-time champion.
“[Schumacher] is getting better, but everything is relative. It’s very difficult. He can’t speak... Like me, he is in a wheelchair, paralyzed. He has memory problems and speech problems,” Philippe Streiff, paralyzed in a crash in 1989, said in an interview with French radio, cited by the Guardian.
Schumacher, who was the highest-paid athlete in the world during his heyday around the turn of the century, suffered serious head injuries in December 2013 while skiing in France, after he had retired from F1 racing.
He spent months in a medically induced coma before being discharged in September 2014 to continue his rehabilitation at home. His family and management have kept his status a closely guarded secret. A man who was arrested in connection with the theft and illegal offer for sale of his medical records was found hanged in his Zurich cell in August.
CNN correspondent Amanda Davies tweeted that Schumacher's manager, Sabine Kehm, refuted Streiff's version of events, saying, “Philippe Streiff is neither a friend of Michael’s nor has he ever visited him.” A YouTube video, however, purported to show Streiff in his car, surrounded by reporters, being interviewed after having visited Schumacher.
A Schumacher spokesperson added that Streiff's comments were “his opinion,” adding that it would be some time before another official update on his condition was released, according to a report from The Independent.
A doctor treating Schumacher said in October that the former F1 champion was making progress but will need years to recover, according to Australia's ABC News.