Clarification on Classification

Clarification on Classification

📁 Featured News, Slider, Sports, Uncategorized 🕔06.February 2020
Clarification on Classification

“Para-cycling is fair as long as I’m winning” said a Paralympic athlete jokingly. Feelings of discontent are already foreshadowing the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic cycling venue. The current classification system and how athletes are assigned categories is the topic of concern. Much attention was focused on the subject when a reigning Paralympic Gold medalist was downgraded from his MH4 status to MH3.  Many other accounts where athletes have been downgraded in classification resulting in them dominating their new category leave fans and fellow athletes questioning the system.

The root of the classification trouble starts with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). They are the governing body that dictates criteria for all the Paralympic sports to follow. Wheelchair basketball, Para-cycling and wheelchair racing etc. are all responsible for creating unique classification systems to govern their own sports. Each discipline has had its differences with the IPC on how to regulate its sport. The IPC strategy has given each sport enough latitude to establish workable systems. The tactical application by each sport is inconsistent.

If classifying is a house of cards this is how it implodes? Athletes jump from sport to sport and are classified higher in one discipline and downgraded in another sport. When this happens the automatic reaction is poorly received and questioned. Classification jumping within a sport raises doubt too, especially if the downgraded athlete dominates their new category.

The idea of the IPC is sound. An umbrella type organization like the IPC is necessary to tie everything together. What’s evident though is each sport does a poor job of classifying athletes and then organizing categories for them to compete in.

Athletes should be classified by their ability not by the sport they’re participating in or handcycle type ex. Long seat vs. kneeler. Why wouldn’t the IPC want to classify participating athletes? Take control and clearly identify all athletes’ and their abilities. Eliminate the many individual sports classifiers and create one unified classifying branch of the IPC. After examination by a trained IPC classifying panel the athlete would be assigned a # representing their ability. This # would be a passport for all para sports to utilize. Each para-sport organizing body would be relieved of the burden to classify. The organizing bodies would have the responsibility of outlining categories based on a # range and the ability it represents. Additionally it would be recommended a “dominance” clause be added. If in a set period of time an athlete dominates a category they would be automatically reviewed by the IPC. If determined their classification score is near the category above a bump to the higher category may be necessary to insure fair competition. Conversely a competitor would be downgraded if they are perpetually at the bottom of their classification and have an ability ranking that is close to the category line.

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