A deaf Olympic torchbearer was refused a sign-language interpreter for personal training sessions he had paid for at one of the world’s largest gym chains.

James Clarke, 35, has spent six months fighting to make Fitness First pay for an interpreter, which he claims they are obliged to provide under the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Clarke, from Sanderstead,  suffers from Usher syndrome and was born profoundly deaf and partially sighted.

He joined the gym in May and initially attempted to complete the two introductory training sessions, which come with the £34 monthly membership, by communicating with pen and paper.

But he struggled due to his poor eyesight and requested a sign- language interpreter.

Mr Clarke, who in June carried the Olympic torch in Derby, said: "They kept me waiting for six months with emails making unreasonable suggestions, such as to bring a family member or friend.

"I don't see it being professional and I would lose my independence. They made delaying antics such as saying they will look at the matter and left it for too long."

After six months, he received an email from Fitness First’s management stating the Purley branch was coming under different ownership and could not help him.

Mr Clarke, who is trying to get fit to complete a personal challenge of running 100 long-distance races, said: "It's like they kept telling me that they are trying to help and then in the end have said sorry and slammed the door.

"People with disabilities will be treated the same as those without disabilities only if the disabled people have full support. This is a human right.

"I feel hurt by their lacklustre attitude towards my disability and frustrated by their delaying antics."

A spokesman for Fitness First said: "In keeping with Equality Act code of practice we can provide a service – where the cost is reasonable – to ensure disabled members are not disadvantaged.

"However in James's situation,  the cost of the service in question outweighs the membership fee and so we are unable to provide this additional service.

"James cancelled his membership a number of months ago, but we are more than happy to reimburse James for membership paid by him."

But deafblind charity Sense backed Mr Clarke, telling him: "Fitness First has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for you to enable you to use all their services.

"They are a large organisation, they are offering personal training sessions to everyone, those sessions are not accessible for you unless you have an interpreter and you only want to do a couple of sessions which will then keep you going for quite a while."