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Athletes With Intellectual Disabilities Allowed Back To Paralympics
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 29, 2004

CAIRO, EGYPT--Officials representing Paralympic groups in 78 countries voted overwhelmingly Thursday to allow athletes with intellectual disabilities to again compete in Paralympic events.

About 200 officials attended the International Paralympic Committee's Extraordinary General Assembly meeting in Cairo.

They elected to allow the athletes to return to IPC competition, even though there has not yet been a process developed and endorsed to ensure that they indeed have intellectual disabilities.

The Assembly decided that the IPC would work with the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability (INAS-FID) to develop an eligibility and verification system that both groups can agree upon.

"Despite the fact that INAS-FID has not met the conditions, the IPC membership has reaffirmed that the interest of the athletes comes in first place," said IPC President Phil Craven in a press statement. "Now, athletes with an intellectual disability should gradually be able to take part in IPC sanctioned competitions in order to test the new process."

The IPC stopped allowing athletes with intellectual disabilities to participate in January 2001 after it was learned that 10 members of Spain's gold-medal winning Paralympic basketball team at the 2000 Sydney Games had no disabilities.

One team member, Carlos Ribagorda, turned out to be a Madrid journalist who wrote about the deception and described how Spanish officials' failed to discover the scam.

The Spanish team was forced to return their gold medals.

After the 2000 games, the IPC said that it would not allow athletes with intellectual disabilities to participate as long as there was no way to keep bogus athletes from cheating the system. As early as two months ago, IPC officials were not expected to lift the ban in time for the 2008 Paralympiad in Beijing, China.

Athletes with intellectual disabilities and their supporters have been pressuring the IPC to change its ruling, calling the ban a blatant form of discrimination.

"Paralympics: Sell it as sport, not charity" (The Indian Express)

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