Ripley Davenport publicly declared that he had MS in late 2011. Here's his story as reported on a MS support site:

I am personally skeptical about Davenport's claim to be suffering from MS, based on Davenport's history of false and fraudulent claims regarding past expeditions, academic achievement and military history. I also believe that the claim to have MS is part of a larger pattern of deception and fraud in which Ripley's wife, Laura, plays a willing and active role. If Ripley does have MS it is tragic and challenging for him and his family. I have stated many times that if Ripley Davenport convinces a credible third party who can verify that he has MS I will owe him a sincere and forthright apology.

Ripley Davenport and his wife Laura have a well documented history of conspiring to create a fabulous but false "history" of Ripley's exploits in exploration and in their personal lives, all aimed at garnering publicity, sponsorship, donations, gear and employment. MS is a disease in which the symptoms are largely self-reported, particularly in the early stages. There is no rash, no raised fever, nothing that can be codified without a CAT scan and other tests. Because the symptoms are so unpredictable, when someone notes that Davenport seems fine, it is a simple thing for him to claim that he had symptoms last week but now they are gone. The natural human reaction when learning that someone has contracted a terrible disease is sympathy and support, not skepticism. This is the core appeal of Munchausen's Syndrome in which outlandish, false claims are made to garner attention, sympathy and support without critical review.

Why is there reason for concern that Ripley Davenport is pretending to have MS?

1. Ripley has never offered any documentation to support his claim. It would be beyond simple to provide MSIreland (for whom he is a School Ambassador) with a letter from his physician confirming his diagnosis. Ripley claims to have had the first symptoms on his solo walk in Mongolia in 2010. This was a solo event and all records of that event have been erased from the internet by Ripley. Ripley claims that further symptoms appeared during the 2011 Mongolia walk but except for a bout of diarrhea that caused him to ride in the support vehicle, none of the participants I have spoken with (about half) remember him reporting MS like symptoms. Again, we have only Ripley's declaration that these things happened. In this recent article in the Mirror, Laura Davenport describes receiving the results of Ripley's MS diagnostic tests in the mail. The HSE, Ireland's health service, confirms that test results for something like MS are conveyed in person, by the patient's physician, not by mail.

2. Ripley's public disclosure of having MS occured just after the 2011 trip. It was in the same time frame in which Ripley was sacked from the Explore Foundation (which he had joined just in April of that year) for irregularities associated with the 2011 trip. Half of the paying participants who signed up because of Ripley's (now proven false) CV as an expedition leader had quit the trip in disgust. The remaining expedition members (and the professional guiding service in Mongolia he had hired) were all aware that he had misrepresented his skills and experience. The 2011 trip, intended to be the first of many lucrative "guiding" jobs for Ripley, had ended in fiasco with his clients barely speaking to him. It was also a time when creditors from the Mongolia 2011 trip were actively seeking payment. It was a difficult and turbulent time and one where a tragic diagnosis of a nasty disease would buffer criticism and invoke sympathy.

3. The Davenports consistently refuse to provide any documentation of any of their claims, insisting that, in spite of being intentional public figures, any request for proof is a violation of their privacy. They claim that everything they have previosly claimed is true, that they have the documentation but that they will not release it on principle. This is their explanation for not documenting Ripley's supposed expeditions in Namibia, Turkmenistan, North Africa, etc. and the reason they refuse to document where Ripley received his two advanced degrees, Environmental Science and Conservation Biology. It is the same shield they project when asked to explain striking disparities in their claims of Ripley's military service. They have carried over this notion of protecting the sanctity of their privacy to the MS diagnosis question. They also insist on characterizing questions about all these events as being "demands" which must be delivered to the questioner. In fact, there are many ways for the Davenports to establish the truth of their claims by working with a reputable third party who could examine their documentation and, without revealing any sensitive issues, certify the claims to be true. It is important to remember that these claims, from the expeditions to the MS, are all made in connection with the Davenports' intention of making Ripley a famous "explorer" and a profitable one. These are all claims that go to the Davenports' commercial interest and claims they have made loudly and publicly to promote themselves and their activities. Claims made in the public realm in support of business are reasonably subject to scrutiny and production of proof of those claims.

4. In July 2012, (JULY.. When temperatures soar well over 100 degrees) Ripley Davenport and the mononymous "Dan" attempted to cross the length of Death Valley pulling carts: It appears that "Dan" was a client who was funding the expedition and hiring Ripley as a "guide". They were walking on graded, public roads and lasted roughly 16 hours and 5 miles (out of a planned 5 days) before they called the local expert, Death Valley Jim (hired for support and rescue) and asked to be picked up. Ripley provided no coherent explanation to Jim for why they quit. And, oddly, Ripley never mentioned his MS diagnosis. Jim only found out months after the trip. In other words, Ripley Davenport, as self-proclaimed expert in desert travel, a self-proclaimed "combat paramedic" failed to tell his support staff that he had a disease which could materially impact Ripley's own performance, health and life in addition to that of "Dan". Anyone with MS knows that heat and stress are two primary triggers for MS symptoms. On May 31, 2012 Ripley's website had this description of the trip:

While the description talks about dragging their 200kg loaded trailers "across sand dunes, jagged mountains, salt pans, washes and canyons", in June of 2012, the National Park Service advised Ripley that any cross country travel would be illegal. Hence, the expedition was required to travel on graded gravel public roads. Had they actually spent a night out, they would have had to camp along the roadside or leave their trailers at the road's edge and carry their camping gear by hand to a suitable location.

The Death Valley "Manhaul" took place in July when temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees and raises significant questions about Ripley Davenport's claim to have MS. Was Dan, the financier behind the trip, aware that his guide has a serious and potentially debilitating disease? Why wasn't Death Valley Jim (or the Park Service, for that matter) advised that one of the "manhaulers" had a medical condition whose existence would be important information in case of accident or rescue? It is important to remember that Ripley claims to have been a "combat paramedic". And finally, why would someone endanger themselves, their client and their family's prospects by undertaking the crossing of Death Valley in July when they have MS?

5. Ripley Davenport has been appointed a "School Ambassador" by MSIreland, the Irish national charity dealing with MS. MSIreland was advised of Ripley Davenport's history of unsubstantiated professional claims and was urged to assure themselves (and all the MS sufferers who they represent) that Davenport did in fact have MS. Citing privacy laws, MSIreland has claimed their hands are tied and must just believe those who claim to have the disease. This is odd, because Ripley Davenport is also claiming to raise funds for MSIreland with his Round Ireland Swim. In the unlikely event that Ripley should actually succeed at swimming around Ireland, the resulting publicity would only focus more attention on his history of unsubstantiated claims and would bring the question of his claim of having MS to the fore. If, at that time, it becomes clear that Ripley does NOT have MS, then MSIreland is embarrassed and stereotypes about people with MS being fakes are reinforced. All that speaks to why MSIreland would seem to have both a practical and an ethical obligation to insist on some method of clearly determining Ripley Davenport's status vis a vis MS. To understand the gravity of this issue, one has only to imagine being the parent of a child who comes home talking about the man with MS who told them all about how tough the disease is but how you can still accomplish things (like swimming around Ireland or pulling carts across Death Valley) and then discovers that the "Ambassador" doesn't have MS after all.

6: Ripley Davenport has taken up Freediving. As with endurance swimming, cross-desert trailer hauling, freediving is physically demanding and accomplishment in this area is to be applauded. All the more so if you have a disease like MS. But if you don't have MS, it's the athletic version of "stolen valor".

7: In January of 2016 Ripley and his family had moved from Ireland to Malta where Ripley volunteered with the local Search and Rescue (SAR) organizaion. This connection led to Ripley volunteering to be one of two "rescue swimmers" on a privately funded ship (MOAS) pulling Syrian refugees from sinking boats in the Aegean Sea. The head of the Maltese SAR group knew nothing of Ripley's claim of having MS until after Ripley was removed from the assignment. Neither did the other rescue swimmer, on loan from an Irish SAR group. There is no evidence that Ripley revealed to the owners of MOAS or the ship's doctor that he had MS. Much the same as the Death Valley event, this challenging activity of saving lives in the darkness on the ocean is the kind of situation where it would be imperative that your co-workers, who depend on your fitness and responsiveness know if you have medical limitations. So, if Ripley HAS MS, he lied to people who trusted him in a position of life or death responsibilty. Or, he didn't lie, because he doesn't have MS.

The Irish SAR group also reported that Ripley misrepresented his credentials and training in order to get the "rescue swimmer" assignment. This reflects naive but shoddy vetting on the part of the Malta SAR group and the MOAS organization, but more importantly means that Ripley's fraudulent representation could have put himself and others at risk of harm (since he was not qualified for the work). Had the press learned of his past history it would have been ammunition for those who oppose the use of private funds to rescue refugees. Imagine the damage to the cause of refugee rescue if it were shown that the private charity who funded the rescue group had hired a Walter Mitty.

It is certainly difficult for many people to imagine undertaking such demanding tasks in the knowledge that your efforts may trigger or exacerbate or even accelerate the trajectory of the disease. In the case of something like freediving, an MS attack at the wrong time could be potentially fatal. If Ripley Davenport has MS, he is incredibly dedicated and brave. Proving that he has MS, in the face of public skepticism as I am expressing here, would prove that dedication and bravery and effectively silence his critics. The other explanation is that Ripley Davenport is, at best, a Munchhausen Syndrome sufferer or just an incredibly delusional and cynical liar.

Why would someone fake having MS? At least in this one case, with unique circumstances, it could be an effective way of garnering both attention and support, while deflecting scrutiny of previous claims. The special circumstances include having a wife who is fully engaged in the charade. In Ripley Davenport's case, his wife Laura can be shown to have clearly fabricated stories about their own history, designed to fit into the overall "renowned explorer" canard. The Davenports are on public record declaring that rather than pay their outstanding bills, they decided to build Ripley a career as an explorer and adventurer.

Another special circumstance is the idea of being an "explorer/adventurer" who continues doing physically demanding things in spite of MS. This has obvious appeal. Without any knowledge of Ripley's history, the average person would never imagine that he might be faking. Success at an expedition is that much more inspiring, since he did it with MS. Failure on an expedition is attributable to MS but still carries the positive message of having tried against long odds. All that is true if Ripley actually has MS. If he doesn't have MS, the insult to those who genuinely suffer is incalcuable.

There are many individuals with MS who, like Ripley, maintain a website and share the challenges of undertaking normal or even extra-normal physical challenges while suffering from MS. I contacted several of those and posed the question "How would you respond if someone claimed you were faking?". They all said they would immediatly make proof of their diagnosis public and demand a public apology.

The Davenports claim that everything they have written is true (although Ripley's "history" at his website is now much more modest and close to reality). It would be simple and one imagines, satisfying, to produce the proof of their claims and silence any criticism.

My correspondence with MSIreland on this subject is here: