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Wednesday 6th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

MPs testing claims that British athletes are cheating the system

MPs who wanted to get to the bottom of claims that British athletes are cheating the classification system will be snubbed by Paralympic officials today.

Classification underpins Paralympic sport as it is meant to ensure athletes compete against rivals with a similar level of impairment.

The Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee is holding its second session on the matter at 2.30pm today, having heard from Baroness Grey-Thompson, Michael Breen and the British Paralympic Committee at the end of October.

During that session, Grey-Thompson told the panel she had heard claims of cheating and intimidation during a duty-of-care review she conducted for the sports minister. Breen, the father of world T38 long jump champion Olivia Breen, made a series of allegations about British athletes gaming the system and the International Paralympic Committee failing to properly investigate.

But the IPC said it wouldn’t be able to send any representatives to answer the claims because the session clashes with World Para Swimming Championships and and World Para Powerlifting Championships in Mexico City, which were rescheduled after September’s earthquake.

IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez also said the October hearing hadn’t raised any questions the governing body wasn’t already working on and denied the classification system is broken.

He questioned why Breen kept raising doubts about the classifications of his daughters’ rivals, despite IPC experts verifying them.

The IPC sent committee chair Damian Collins a 42-point rebuttal of the claims made by Breen and others in October.

But that’s not good enough for the Tory MP, who said in a statement yesterday: “The IPC decision not to attend the committee in person is disappointing.
“Their written evidence leaves too many questions unanswered for the committee. An appearance would have given them an opportunity to offer a defence on matters raised by others in the inquiry.”

He said the probe “goes much further than just the classification of Paralympic athletes.

“It’s about getting to the bottom of why cases of mistreatment and a glaring lack of proper grievance procedures are being brought to the [select] committee as opposed to their own governing bodies, time and time again.”

While there is ample evidence that athletes have felt the need to turn to Parliament rather than their own governing bodies, the IPC has mounted a spirited defence of its own institutions.

In the written testimony it accuses Breen of making “grossly unfair, unjust and unethical” allegations about leading British para-athletes, says that “his facts are simply wrong” and claims he “does not have a proper understanding of the subject.”