Women's Sport: Wheelchair basketball under threat of exclusion from Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Wheelchair basketball under threat of exclusion from Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Wheelchair basketball was removed from the 2024 Paralympics schedule on Friday and now reports are surfacing regarding its safety in the Tokyo lineup as well.

The International Paralympic Committee and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation are in the midst of a dispute regarding the grading and eligibility of their athletes. The IPC wants to reassess some wheelchair basketball players scheduled to compete in Tokyo and those who don't meet requirements will be blocked. 

The debate stems from the fact that wheelchair basketball is open to a wide range of disabilities and includes athletes with impairments of differing severities. Although a decision has already been made to remove the sport from the 2024 Paris Paralympics, the ruling could still be reversed. 

Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “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. 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 the competition."

Differences in legislation between the IWBF and the IPC are at the centre of the issue with the former bargaining to reach a deal before Tokyo.

“It is important to stress the eligibility of our athletes is not in doubt, merely we use different languages in our classification,” said Regina Costa, chair of the IWBF classification commission.

According to IWBF rules, some of the athletes permitted to take part in wheelchair basketball would not be eligible to participate in other Paralympic sports as the IPC looks at releasing 50-75 athletes worldwide.

The United States is the defending champion in the men's and women's wheelchair basketball events but this new dispute may have devastating consequences for teams all over the world.

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