Bates ready for Cas bat­tle

Wheel­chair world cham­pion could take case to high­est court Mother ac­cuses gov­ern­ing body of dis­crim­i­na­tory code

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sports Newspaper Of The Year - By Jeremy Wil­son, Gareth A Davies and Tom Mor­gan

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

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