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"Intellectually Disabled" Athletes Banned From 2004 Paralympic Games
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 5, 2003

ATHENS, GREECE--Representatives of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) met last week to decide a number of issues related to the Paralympic Games coming up September 17 through September 28, 2004.

There are currently about 4,000 athletes from over 100 nations expected to compete.

One group that will not participate is "intellectually disabled" (ID) athletes, the IPC announced Sunday,.

The IPC banned athletes with such disabilities two years ago after it was discovered that 10 of the 12 members on Spain's ID basketball team faked having a disability in order to win gold medals at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic games. Those athletes had to return the medals. The IPC kept athletes with intellectual disabilities out of last winter's games in Salt Lake City.

IPC officials gave the International Sports Federation for Athletes with an Intellectual Disability (INAS-FID) until January 31 to create a system that would prevent cheating. The IPC said Sunday that INAS-FID failed to do so, but said it would continue to support the federation in its efforts to develop such a system.

Australia's athletes and Paralympic officials said they were dismayed by the decision. Australian ID athletes won 24 medals, including 12 gold medals, at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

"I can't understand why athletes such as myself must pay for the sins of a few Spanish basketballers who tried to cheat," six-time Australian gold medal swimmer Siobhan Paton told the Australian News. "We have done nothing wrong."

Robyn Smith, the chief executive of the Australian branch of the IPC, told the paper the decision was unfair and discriminatory.

"If you have two or three cheats, you throw them out. You don't ban the entire country or all athletes from that sport," Smith said.

"We feel there are many groups within the IPC that have a problem with athletes with an intellectual disability. . . So when the chance to get rid of our athletes came up in Sydney with the Spanish, many were rubbing their hands saying 'You beauty. Get rid of them all'."

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Reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express disability rights news service.
© Copyright 2004 Inonit Publishing. Please do not reprint, publish or distribute without permission.

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