Classification system for Paralympic track and field ‘open to abuse’ | Sport

The classification system for Paralympic track and field athletes is flawed and open to abuse by the unscrupulous, according to a report into the subject by the sport’s own governing body.

UK Athletics’ review found a variety of ways in which the existing classification rules could be undermined, and uncovered a widespread belief inside Paralympic sport that a system designed to ensure fairness can be exploited.

A copy of the report has been shown to the Guardian ahead of its publication. Produced by a panel of four experts, and chaired by Anne Wafula Strike, it concluded: “There was wide consensus that the current UKA national classification system could be abused, should an athlete or support personnel be sufficiently motivated, have an understanding of the classification process and have an impairment that lends itself to exaggeration.

“This issue is not exclusive to athletics but reflected across Paralympic sport.”

The report identifies several ways in which athletes could cheat the system by making themselves appear more disabled during classification. These include:

  • Athletes in classes for those with neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy, tiring themselves out ahead of classification in order to perform poorly in tests.
  • Athletes altering medical forms and evidence prior to submitting them in support of their classification.
  • Athletes presenting medical reports from doctors who are sympathetic to the athlete.

The report’s findings suggest that…

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