Bates ready for Cas battle
Wheelchair world champion could take case to highest court Mother accuses governing body of discriminatory code
George Bates, who revealed in The Daily Telegraph yesterday that he would consider the amputation of his left leg to help him qualify for a place in the Great Britain wheelchair basketball team at the next Paralympics, has said he is prepared to take his case for inclusion to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
George Bates would be prepared to take his case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the Paralympic world reacted with shock, anger and sadness yesterday at news that he had been deemed ineligible for the Games.
Bates, who is part of Great Britain’s reigning World and European Championship-winning wheelchair basketball team, was told on Tuesday that his disability did not meet the International Paralympic Committee’s 10-point assessment code.
This is despite the fact that his condition – complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – has caused muscle wastage, restricted movement, loss of power and, as well as suffering constant pain, he has been unable to walk unaided for the past 15 years.
Bates has 30 days to lodge an appeal with the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation and, although he will take advice over the coming days from the British Athletes Commission and British Wheelchair Basketball, he would be willing to take his appeal to sport’s highest court.
In an interview yesterday with the The Daily Telegraph, he revealed how he had previously been offered the option of having his left leg amputated as a treatment and that would now be a serious consideration.
The IPC was yesterday accused by Bates’s mother, Steph, and Phil Pratt, the captain of the Team GB wheelchair basketball team, of adopting a discriminatory assessment code that ran contrary to the sport’s ethos. “It is the discriminatory nature of it that I have a problem with,” said Steph Bates. “The fact that they effectively say, ‘You are disabled, but you are not the right disability or you are not disabled enough’. It is just not acceptable in 2020.
“He is a world and European champion – a great advertisement for our country and disability as a whole. The IPC are not being true to their own values about equality and inclusion. It is not just about George. There are many other athletes this will affect.”
The issue for Bates is that his condition is pain-based and, according to the IPC’s criteria, that is regarded as a non-eligible impairment. The code of 10 impairment classifications was agreed at the IPC’s 2015 general assembly, but the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation also has its own classifications, which do allow Bates to play. The IWBF has urged the IPC to consider scientific research that conditions such as CRPS can lead to permanent impairments, which would be eligible, such as loss of muscle-power and impaired range of movement. A spokesperson for the IPC said it was “sympathetic” about Bates’s situation, but that the athlete classification code “clearly states that complex regional pain syndrome is a health condition that does not lead to an eligible impairment” for Paralympic participation.
Steph Bates said that it was a “technicality” which made no sense and that her son should not be in a position where he was even contemplating amputating a leg in which he has virtually no movement and which gives him no sporting help.
“George has fought all his life – as a family we could not be more proud,” she said. “I would support George in whatever he decided to do. Amputation is not a decision that would be taken lightly – but it is not entirely shocking to me, in that he considered it back when he was 14.”
‘The IPC are not being true to their values about equality. This will affect many athletes’
Paralympic legend Tanni GreyThompson told The Telegraph that the IPC and wheelchair basketball must provide urgent clarity “for young athletes who might be entering the system” and said there needed to be wider opportunity across recreational sport for people who are disabled.
Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said that the situation was “shocking” and urged the Paralympics to be “as thoughtful and flexible as possible when it comes to this case”.
David Weir, Great Britain’s wheelchair racer, said he “felt deeply” for Bates. “My heart was in my mouth for him when I heard about this,” he said. “He loves the sport that much he is tempted to do it, and wants to have a further 10 years in the sport. It is the biggest
‘I felt deeply for George. My heart was in my mouth for him when I heard the decision’
decision he is ever going to make in his life.”
Jonnie Peacock, a Paralympic gold medallist, said that classification codes should depend on an athlete’s mobility. “It’s a huge decision and one which should never be made purely based on sport; it should be made for life improvement,” he said. “The Games will be in the past one day. As for classification rules, I’ve always been an advocate of it being based from a scientific and biomechanical standpoint – how they move.”
Jon Pollock, the former captain of the GB wheelchair basketball team, added: “It’s a pretty big decision to make. If you have to make it just for sport, it’s a grim place to be. The IWBF has allowed him to play in the World Cup, so it should stand by him with the IPC. This is going to end up as a sports politics argument.”
Will Bayley, a Paralympic table tennis gold medallist, said: “It’s a tough one. To have the amputation just to be in the Paralympics is a big thing because where will that stop? An Olympic athlete could do it and become the best at the Paralympics overnight. But if it is legitimately so that he is not in pain, or the pain is less, it is obviously an understandable move.”
Fighting on: George Bates, who suffers from intense pain, is determined not to give up on his dream of competing in the Paralympics