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Intellectual disability ban ends

Boris Johnson waves IPC flag in Beijing
Intellectual disability athletes will now feature at London 2012

Athletes with intellectual disabilities can once again take part in the Paralympics after an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) vote.

They had been banned since it was found that most of Spain's intellectual disability basketball team at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics were not disabled.

As a result, "sports intelligence" tests will form part of the new, more rigorous classification process.

ParalympicsGB said it "welcomed" the decision taken on Saturday.

Speaking at an assembly in Kuala Lumpur, IPC President Sir Philip Craven said: "Today's achievement is the outcome of a unique and excellent co-operation between sports governance and the scientific community.

"I wish all intellectual disability athletes the best of success in their attempt to set world class performances at future competitions."

Tessa Jowell, Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, added: "I've been involved in this campaign for the last four years so I know it wasn't a simple decision.

"But nobody who's been at the Special Olympics would doubt that its competitors are every bit as committed as the Paralympians."

Four sports - athletics, swimming, rowing and table tennis - are now set to be included in the 2012 programme in London.

Intellectual disability athletes were barred from competing at both the Athens Games in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 following the scandal surrounding the Spanish team, but moves to welcome them back to the Paralympic fold have been in progress for some time.

The failure of a screening process to detect the absence of intellectual disability in several Spanish basketball players was extremely embarrassing for Paralympic organisers.

Spain beat Russia in the final to claim gold, but their players subsequently had to hand back their medals after an inquiry found that 10 of the 12-strong squad suffered no handicap.

This resolution brings this unfortunate episode to an end

Bob Price
President, Inas-Fid

October's IPC European Swimming Championships in Iceland, at which Britain won seven gold medals, marked the first IPC-run event where intellectual disability athletes were allowed to compete again.

The International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability (Inas-Fid) has been working with the IPC on the matter.

The two organisations jointly proposed a motion which stated the criteria for reintroducing athletes with an intellectual disability to the Paralympic Games had been met.

"We have lobbied hard for the re-inclusion of athletes with a learning disability subject to a robust classification system," read a statement from Tim Reddish, the chairman of ParalympicsGB.

"We will now work hard with the sports to ensure that these athletes are best prepared."

Bob Price, President of Inas-Fid, said: "I am delighted with the outcome of the vote. Even though they themselves did nothing wrong, intellectual disability athletes have been excluded from the Paralympic Games and other IPC-sanctioned competitions.

"This resolution brings this unfortunate episode to an end and reintroduces intellectual disability athletes to their proper place within the Paralympic family."

Tracey McCillen, from the UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability, told BBC Radio 5 live: "The Paralympic door has finally been opened.

HOW CLASSIFICATION WILL WORK
Correctly identifying and classifying intellectual disability has been the problem preventing athletes from competing. The IPC now believes it has a solution, as follows:
1. Committee reviews athlete's medical file
2. If deemed eligible, athlete faces sport-specific panel
3. Panel conducts tests on "sports intelligence" ahead of event
4. Test results allow athlete to be appropriately classified

"There is a very robust classification system in place and that was at the heart of the decision-making process. It will be held up as a model of good practice and will become clearer over the next few months."

Accurate classification, vital to all forms of disability sport, had been highlighted as a prerequisite for the return of intellectual disability athletes to Paralympic competition.

Under the IPC's new plans, an eligibility committee established by Inas-Fid will review an athlete's medical file and, if they are deemed eligible, issue a letter to the athlete which allows them to proceed to the next step of the classification process.

A separate panel appointed by the relevant sport's governing body then tests the athlete on-site ahead of an event, focusing on what the IPC calls "sports intelligence", including tests relevant to that sport.

The athlete's scores in those tests will be compared to "minimal disability scores" in that sport, with the athlete appropriately classified as a result.

However, the IPC cautioned that "as of this autumn, no sport-specific minimal disability scores are available yet.

"This requires the full analysis of all data collected from the 2009 Inas-Fid Global Games and other competitions, and it is expected that criteria will be made available mid-2010."



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see also
Paralympics ponder key rule change
20 Nov 09 |  Disability Sport
Paralympics set to alter entry policy
13 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
A-Z of Paralympic classification
28 Aug 08 |  Disability Sport
Disability Sport on the BBC
02 Nov 09 |  Disability Sport
Paralympic row remains unresolved
27 Jun 06 |  Disability Sport
Spain ordered to return golds
14 Dec 00 |  Other Sports


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