Par­a­lympic clas­si­fi­ca­tion con­tro­versy

Athletics Weekly - - Contents -

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

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