CLASSIFICATION & ANTI-DOPING
Equality, Fairness and Ethics in Paralympic Sport
Classification and Anti-Doping are two fundamental pillars in the world of Paralympic Sport. Through the classification system, a level playing is ensured by grouping Para Athletes according to their level of physical impairment, on a scale from the most severe impairment to the least severe impairment. On the other hand, Anti-Doping requirements are in place to promote and safeguard ethical behaviour in Paralympic Sport.
CLASSIFICATION - YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
What is Classification?
Classification is the process by which Para Athletes are placed in the most appropriate class for competing depending on the degree of severity of their eligible impairment. (physical, visual or intellectual eligible impairment). Classification is the bedrock of the Paralympic Sport, without it competitive sport is not possible, or meaningful.
To illustrate by way of a practical example, a wheelchair-user Para Athlete would fall to classify in a different class from Para Athletes with upper body impairments, thus ensuring fairness.
What is the IPC Classification Code?
The IPC Classification Code is the master code encompassing the procedures and principles for the Classification of ParaAthletes, and sets out to answer the key questions relating to classification, from the purpose of classification, to timing and location, and the roles and responsibilities of the IPC and the MPC in this process. The IPC Athlete Classification Code and its International Standards can be read via this link.
What are the Eligible Impairment Classes?
The first step in Paralympic classification is to determine if the athlete has an eligible impairment, which may be physical, visual or intellectual. These impairments are listed in the IPC’s International Standard for Eligible Impairments.
Each International Sport Federation (IF) defines which of the ten eligible impairments they provide sports opportunities for. Some sports, like Para Athletics and Para Swimming provide opportunities for all ten eligible impairments while others, such as Para Judo are limited to one impairment.
What is the process of Classification?
Every Para Athlete who wishes to compete in Paralympic Sport internationally is required to be classified by IPC-recognised international classifiers. The process involves three main steps, as follows:
(1)MEDICAL DOCUMENTATION: submission of medical diagnostics form and supporting medical documentation for initial review of impairment eligibility;
(2) PHYSICAL EVALUATION: pre-competition evaluation carried out 2-3 priors to competition by the panel of international classifiers. This involves carrying out of standard tests (eg range of motion, flexibility, etc) and sport-specific tests.
(3) IN-COMPETITION EVALUATION: athlete is observed during competition events by international classifiers.
The results are then evaluated against the particular Paralympic Sport's classification rules. Both the IPC and MPC consider preliminary national classification as a best practice and the MPC is working towards establishing the systems to allow Para. Athletes to be provisionally classified locally. To do so, and to better assist the Para Athletes in their classification process, the MPC has set up a dedicated Classification Sub-Committee.
Who are Eligible Classifiers?
Classifiers are technical officials with specific expertise in Paralympic Sport. International Classifiers are trained and accredited by the International Federation for that sport and work in panels of at least 2, reaching decisions by consensus. A typical classification panel is made up of one medical classifier (ex. a physio) and one technical classifier (ex. a qualified coach or a bio-mechanic with experience in that sport). The classifiers administer a range of sport and impairment specific tests that measure the athlete’s impairment against the sport’s classification rules.
Ethics in Paralympic Sport
Athletes are to be aware of the serious consequences of using or abusing of substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency ('WADA'), which consequences may include suspensions or even outright prohibitions from competitive sport. Athletes are reminded that prohibitions may apply both in-and-out of competition phases.