Paralympic classification controversy
PARA SPORT has become embroiled in controversy this month following a parliamentary inquiry into the classification system.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee hearing that the current classification process was not fit for purpose and that cheating the system is akin to doping.
The 11-time Paralympic gold medallist said: “We need to ask the question whether classification is fair and transparent and whether athletes can make an appeal or complaint in an open and fair process.
“Judged on what I have been told, I don’t believe we can answer that question right now.”
Joining Grey-Thompson at the DCMS inquiry was British Paralympic Association chief executive Tim Hollingsworth and Michael Breen, a classification campaigner and father of Paralympian Olivia.
Breen described the classification system as “Mickey Mouse”, adding that athletes did not speak out because they had been “intimidated and bullied”.
Hollingsworth admitted a global, independent body to deal with classification was required, but he rejected
Breen’s claim that the classification system was broken.
The International Paralympic Committee also insists its classification is “robust”.
But Breen believes it is essential that medical doctors are brought into sit on classification panels at all times, rather than occupational or physical therapists, to ensure assessments are more in-depth and accurate.
“I have spoken to over 100 coaches, athletes and their parents who feel the system is fundamentally flawed but the IPC keep insisting it is fine,” he said. “This classification problem is the worst kept secret in Paralympic sport – and if it is allowed to fester as it is, it will destroy it.”
As the row has deepened, allegations of abusing the classification system have also been levelled at sprinter Sophie Hahn and wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft, although the athletes say the allegations are “baseless”.
Tanni GreyThompson: concerns