The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation is in hot water with the International Paralympic Committee and it might be costly for all involved.
The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) is reacting to a decision on player classification from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), which may cause banishment of the sport from Paralympic play.
The IWBF acknowledges that they have been working hard toward achieving a constant code for the classification of all of the players involved with wheelchair basketball heading into Tokyo 2020.
However, this decision comes after a unanimous decision was made by the IPC Governing Board at a conference in Bonn, Germany on January 23-25. The decision happened after prolonged talks with the IWBF, a deal could not be made for a better classification system for all players. The IPC found that IWBF defined eligible impairments differently than the list of IPC’s mandatory list of eligible impairments agreed upon by the IPC General Assembly and in the IPC Athlete Classification Code. The final decision was that all edits and workarounds to the code must be approved by the IPC General Assembly.
What this means to wheelchair basketball as a Paralympic sport is that after this decision, unless the IWBF appeals, wheelchair basketball might lose its spot in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
This will leave previously eligible players, coaches and fans with an uneasy feeling of not knowing their futures heading into the middle of the wheelchair basketball season. No one is more upset than IWBF President, Ulf Mehrens, who says in a press release,
“Despite our disappointment, IWBF acknowledges the current action by the IPC and I kindly request all athletes, teams and member nations for their cooperation and understanding as IWBF prepare to take on the challenges we will have in the next months,” Mehrens says. “We hope to have the collaboration and support from all our national federations as we do everything possible to serve our wheelchair basketball community and make sure wheelchair basketball secures it’s place in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and future Paralympic Games.”
According to the IPC, they have made the decision now after the IWBF failed on numerous occasions to take actions to improve its Athlete Classification Code compliance.
“We appreciate that wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Games, but this does not mean that the IWBF is above the rules,” IPC President Andrew Parsons says. “Athlete classification is integral to all Paralympic sport and the failure of any sport to comply with the IPC Athlete Classification Code is of critical concern to us because it could threaten the integrity of competition.”
“The failure of the IWBF to comply with the IPC Athlete Classification Code means they are also failing every single athlete that plays wheelchair basketball,” Chelsey Gotell, Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council says. “From an athlete viewpoint, I am bitterly disappointed at the IWBF’s continued reluctance to make changes to comply with the IPC Athlete Classification Code which is fundamental for every single Paralympic sport.
As the eligibility for the sport at Tokyo 2020 remains up in the air upon appeal, as of now Paris 2024’s organizing committee has fully removed the sport from the games until a final decision can be made by the IPC and the IWBF. The deadline for such an agreement as stated by the Paris 2024 officials is August 2021.