Tag Archives: Paralympics

Difficulties in distinguishing disabled athletes

October 30, 2013

1 Comment

By Mark Brade – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

Within elite sporting events the necessity of ensuring athletes are in fair competition with one another has led to the creation of anti-doping programs, qualification scores, and other means of protecting the integrity of sport. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is faced with an unusual additional challenge; the difficult task of quantifying the disabilities of athletes in order to ensure balanced competition. Ensuring achievement of the equality and participatory standards expected of an international sporting event is a daunting task when consideration is given to the spectrum of possible impairment within just a single disability and the IPC has struggled to meet these obligations on an ongoing basis.

Managing an admissions system for athletes with intellectual disabilities raises particular challenges and this may explain why the category did not exist until the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. The next Summer Paralympics to take place, at Sydney in 2000, saw the failure of the IPC to adequately protect the integrity of competition when only 2 out of 12 players on the Spanish basketball team were disabled. The president of the Spanish Federation for Mentally Handicapped Sports (FEDDI) had arranged for these players to avoid testing in order to dominate the competition, which they did by winning the gold medal. Once discovered the IPC revoked their medals however only the president of FEDDI was charged while a mixed group of 18 athletes and officials avoided court imposed sanction.

In response to their failure to protect disabled athletes the IPC cancelled intellectual disability competition until a reliable system could be created to determine eligibility. It was not until 2009 that the ban was lifted while the IPC instituted a series of ‘sports intelligence’ tests to confirm claimed disabilities. The new system requires an IQ score below 70 or 75, and satisfactory demonstration of a limitation in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills assessed against through standardized testing. In addition to ignoring the documented cultural bias which exists in intelligence quotient testing the test demonstrates – even highlights – the differences between non-disabled and disabled athletes as a means of separating them. To an athlete seeking to assert him/herself as an elite performer on a world stage this is hardly an equitable or affirming system of evaluation.

Admissions criteria for athletes with non-intellectual disabilities have also been difficult to manage without controversy. Victoria Arlen is an 18-year-old swimmer who has been paralyzed since emerging from a three-year coma she entered while 11-years-old. Victoria has an autoimmune disease which attacks the spinal nervous bundle and swims without use of her legs and with limited mobility of her arms. The IPC has ruled her ineligible for competition because her condition may potentially not be permanent. The report relied upon by the IPC suggests that after years of physical therapy Victoria might be able to walk again. 

The nature of disability is not easy to describe and yet the Paralympic Games are considered the pinnacle sporting event for disabled athletes. The nature of the sport is competition among all those who are similarly limited in their ability to perform and winning is not intended to be a consolation prize for a disability. Accordingly, athletes who are equally disabled ought to be free to compete against one another without regard for whether one athlete may, possibly, one day be able to walk again. The potential that a non-disabled athlete who has had the benefit of being free of the training limitations of a disability may become disabled, compete, win, then recover, is not justification for denying a person who has a faint hope of recovery the opportunity to compete. The alternative is to create a two-tiered system which excludes athletes of equal disability due to the unpredictable nature of advances in medicine.

The Vision and Mission statement in the Constitution of the IPC states the organization seeks to uphold fundamental ethical principles and the spirit of fair play. It is a requirement of a fair and ethical competition that entry is based neither upon uncertain testing nor speculative assessments of future medical and personal accomplishments.

Continue reading...

World Sports Law Report’s: Tackling Doping in Sport 2011 (in association with UK Anti-Doping & Squire Sanders Hammonds, 16-17 March, London [DAY 2]

March 25, 2011


If there are any errors or inaccuracies these are from me rather than from the speakers. The official WSLR review of the event can be found here: http://e-comlaw.com/sportslawblog/template_permalink.asp?id=386

Day 2  (http://www.tacklingdopinginsport.com/)

  1. Anti-Doping at the Olympic Games. Richard Budgett (London 2012). The first lecture discussed the planned anti-doping provision at London 2012. Just listening to the statistics in particular outlined the sheer logistical task ahead, indeed London plans to undertake the most number of blood and urine doping tests yet (6,200 tests total split as 5,000 at the Olympics, 1,200 at the Paralympics), reaching an expected peak of 400 on one day! (To put this into perspective, UKAD only conduct 7,500 annual tests!). For the first time at the Olympics, Blood and Urine will also be collected in the same room hopefully speeding up the process. One problem that was however raised in light of David Howman’s speech the day before was that all the Doping Control Officer’s (DCO) will be volunteers and the potential for this to lead to bribery?
  2. Anti-Doping at the Commonwealth Games. David Grevemberg (Glasgow 2014). This lecture presented an overview of the planned anti-doping provision at Glasgow 2014. What was noticeable was the stark contrast between the statistics for the two events: Glasgow will have 17 sports, 25 disciplines, 250 medal events, 71 Nations and territories and 11 days of competition, indeed the costs of the Olympic stadium alone would fund Glasgow’s entire budget. One issue that hasn’t yet been decided though was whether the DCOs were coming from London, foreign jurisdictions or from training Scottish medical staff and providing an anti-doping legacy after the Games.
  3. Keynote Speech – Legacy for Anti-Doping. Hugh Robertson MP (UK Minister for Sport and the Olympics). The Keynote Speech has been widely reported by the media (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/feedarticle/9550585; http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/17/us-olympics-london-doping-idUSTRE72G43Z20110317) however it is still worth highlighting a number of points the Minister made. The first point to note is that he felt that sport was facing twin threats from doping (possibly from more individual sports) and from corruption (possibly from more team-based sports). Combating these two threats was vital if sport was to retain its integrity. One throwaway comment that perhaps jars with the current England FA coverage is that he viewed all Olympic sports stars as role models [whether this is enforceable though is another matter!]. The Minister praised UKAD and encouraged its close relationship with law enforcement, interestingly though he suggested that they should focus not just on target athletes but on stemming the entire flow of drugs at the source. He also seemed amenable to pass legislation on this issue if it was needed in the future, and in echoes of David Howman’s speech called for a strengthening and harmonisation of clearer doping rules across Europe.
  4. Using intelligence to combat doping in the run up to the Olympic Games. Nicole Sapstead (UK Anti-Doping). This lecture developed the theme from both David Howman and Travis Tygart’s earlier presentations. Somewhat provocatively, the talk opened with the statistic that there were 498 days until London 2012, but 0 days to combat cheats and their entourage! An interesting rhetorical question was whether UKAD had failed if they detected a BALCO-esque scandal just before / during the Games, or whether this in fact represented a success? What was interesting from this presentation was how UKAD collates information, trends and intelligence into a central database in order to analyse doping patterns. Nicole also outlined how UKAD used both a tactical (directly focused) and strategic (wider education) approach to combating drug cheats. She also highlighted the success of the recent anti-doping reporting hotline (run through the independent Crimestoppers): 0800 032 2332 where callers can anonymously pass on information to authorities 24/7 (http://www.ukad.org.uk/news/report-doping-in-sport)
  5. Background to and experience of the [Biological Passport] programme. Michael Ashenden (SIAB Research). This lecture explained how doping cases no longer involved positive tests, but also now involved ‘non-analytical positives’ where other evidence / interviews / suspicions could be considered indicators of guilt. One such area is Biological passports. The passport relies on two cornerstones, the initial software filtering which highlights deviances from the norm, and the subsequent review of this data by a series of experts to rule out pathological or other non-doping factors. The presentation concluded with an exhortation to discover even more markers within the blood to test for in order to block any potential loopholes.
  6. Advancements in the use of biological markers in anti-doping control. Paul Scott (Scott Analytics). This lecture could best be described as a critical analysis of the current biological passport scheme and how it could be improved in the future. Some of the suggestions raised privacy / freedom issues, such as the ability to test at any time of day or night, but this must be balanced against the fact that athletes are not currently tested between 11pm-6am and if they declared their whereabouts for later the following day, it was possible to flush certain substances from their body. Tightening the window for analysis of samples would have financial and complexity implications, but effectively sport needs to decide whether it wanted to prohibit doping or to trade-off lower costs with less reliability. A greater use of “non-starts” rather than full doping violations was also suggested.
  7. Procedural issues in anti-doping proceedings. Antonio Rigozzi (Levy Kaufmann-Kohler). This lecture compared and contrasted the admissibility of evidence under Swiss law and the WADA Code, in particular whether the WADA Code could be supplemented by IBA Rules on evidence (www.ibanet.org). Some doubts still exist over the admissibility of polygraph tests, however there is a suggestion that CAS has applied the criminal rather than civil test and therefore its decision in this area is open to challenge.
  8. Potential civil liabilities arising from doping control. Stephen Sampson (Squire Sanders Hammonds). This lecture explored whether athletes could bring civil claims against an Anti-Doping Organisation (ADO) and/or Governing Body for irregularities or problems with the doping control process. A number of case studies were discussed, as was the position in the event of a material departure from WADA rules, however it was also noted that such an action was very unlikely to succeed, particularly if the ADO / NGB had acted fairly, proportionately and justly in accordance with the rules. Interestingly while the WADA Code has been used as a ‘shield’ to protect athletes from abuse, this proposition envisages it being used as a ‘sword’ to attack for a breach.
  9. Contaminated meat: A threat to athletes subject to doping control. Mike Morgan (Squire Sanders Hammonds). This lecture discussed whether clenbuterol from contaminated meat was behind a string of recent doping results, and if so what could be done about it. Arguably the problem lay both within the agricultural sector in particular countries (Taiwan, China, South Korea and Mexico in particular) [but clenbuterol was not at levels harmful to the health of the general population], and also inconsistencies in the legal treatment of the athletes contaminated by the drug. One interesting argument from the questions was whether meat could be treated along similar lines to supplements? Taken to its logical conclusion, this would suggest that under strict liability, an athlete could be to blame if they didn’t convert to veganism?
  10. The risks – recent experiences of a NADO. Aurora Andruska (ASADA). This session was a multimedia presentation on the recent Australian experience with the supplement Methylhexaneamine.  The presentation also analysed the media reporting of the issue and the subsequent repercussions for the four athletes that tested positive for the substance.
  11. Reducing the risk. David Hall (Informed Sport – HFL), Jeni Pearce (English Institute of Sport, England Cricket), Graham Arthur (UKAD). This final section was less a lecture and more a question and answer session on supplements. Two interesting things came out of this session in particular, the first is that there were two main areas where contamination occurred: Using contaminated raw ingredients; and where third party manufacturers had cross-contaminated the product with a prohibited substance. It was also useful to hear about the current EIS policy on supplements, where athletes can receive specialised nutritional advice, guidance and support for supplement use on condition of signing up to an agreed code of conduct. Importantly, the EIS did emphasise though that this programme was one of risk management and that athletes remained liable for what substances entered their bodies; indeed, it was impossible to test every sample although the EIS could minimise this risk by only using approved suppliers and by keeping a record of what supplement batch was taken in order to trace any contamination.
Continue reading...

First Athlete to Compete at both Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

January 21, 2010



Canadian Brian McKeever will be named to Canada’s Olympic cross-country ski team making him the first athlete ever to compete at both the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. 

McKeever has Stargardt’s disease and is legally blind. He has won seven Paralympic medals including two gold and a bronze at the Turin 2006 Paralympic Games. His first able-bodied competition was a 15 km race at the FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski) world championships in Sapporo, Japan in 2007 where he placed 21st. He qualified for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games by winning the able-bodied 50 km Haywood NorAm race last month in Canmore, Alberta.

Considered by some to be a pun combining ‘paraplegic’ and Olympic, the word ‘Paralympic’ is actually derived from the Greek preposition ‘para’ which means ‘alongside’ and Olympics – the effect of which is that the Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics.

There have been five athletes who have competed at both the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

There can be no greater champion to symbolize the Paralympic values of determination (to overcome obstacles and to conquer adversity) and courage (to accomplish the unexpected and what is believed to be impossible) than Brian McKeever.

Continue reading...