The Paralympics cheating scandal
The Paralympics have come a long way since the 2000 Sydney games, when a Spanish wheelchair basketball team took gold despite ten members having no disabilities whatsoever, said Oliver Brown in The Daily Telegraph. The sport’s once-haphazard “pre-testing” procedures have “evolved beyond recognition”. Yet despite such improvements, the system still isn’t “fit for purpose”. Last week, Tanni Grey-Thompson, a former wheelchair racer, claimed that British athletes have been making a mockery of the process by exaggerating their disabilities. Others went further, singling out Paralympians by name: Hannah Cockroft, a wheelchair racer, and Sophie Hahn, a sprinter with cerebral palsy, were both accused of competing in the wrong category.
This isn’t just a British problem, said Martha Kelner in The Guardian. Around the world, Paralympians have been resorting to all sorts of chicanery: taking Valium before a test, or rolling around in the snow, wearing only swimwear, to make them appear weaker than they really are. “The scandal here is not just that the classification has been abused,” said David Walsh in The Sunday Times. It’s also the way athletes who tried to speak out have been treated: British officials allegedly threatened them, warning that they would be booted off teams or stripped of funding. But the problem doesn’t just reside in officialdom, said Ben Bloom in The Daily Telegraph. It lies in the fact that it’s so hard to categorise disability, or define “similar levels of limitation”. Visually impaired runners compete in three classes, T11, T12 and T13; swimming has ten classes. This means the Paralympics can never be “entirely fair”, as every athlete “suffers their disability to different degrees”. It also means that, given the sheer number of classes, the system will always be ripe for abuse.
Hannah Cockroft: accused