Australian Paralympics team cheating allegations

The allegations of cheating in Paralympic classification procedures are focused around a misrepresentation of disabilities.

Paralympic swimming
Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia - 14/08/2009: Thailand's handicapped amputee swimmer swims at the fifth ASEAN Para Games on August 14, 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Chen Wei Seng, Bigstock

Global concerns regarding allegations of the cover up of cheating within Paralympic circles has implicated the Australian Paralympic movement.

Swimming Australia has been implicated in a controversy concerning allegations of athletes being trained to exaggerate their disabilities in order to increase chances of winning.

Those who have made complaints regarding these issues have allegedly been told to quieten down or face backlash from officials.

Swimmers, parents and other parties have said in interviews that administrators are deliberately ignoring or intimidating people on this issue. They claim that if they did not expose the situation then no changes would occur.

Recently an inquiry in the UK parliament has exposed issue regarding intimidation and failures of integrity in their Paralympic team.

Australian swimming coaches have pointed out similar issues in the Australian system. Swimming Australia has publicly stated that any cheating of the system would not be tolerated at any level.

The large majority of cheating allegations refers to a practice known as “intentional misrepresentation” that occurs during a Paralympic athlete’s screening procedure.

The screening or classification procedure occurs in two parts, a medical analysis and a physical test. These tests establish which category the athlete is best to compete in.

Allegations state that Paralympic athletes were being trained to misrepresent the extent of their disability during these tests in order to be placed in an easier category. The athlete would then have a higher chance of winning medals as they were competing against more disabled competitors.

Athletes and coaches caught partaking in this form of cheating face disciplinary action including a possible lifetime ban from competing.

Some coaches who have reported this issue say they have been told not to pursue the issue in an official capacity.

Some athletes have offered information about the commonplace cheating that occurs during the classification process but have had their names withheld for fear of official reprisal. It is alleged that coaches would commonly employ methods such as making athletes appear more fatigued then they really were or encouraged them to skip taking medication before a screening.

It has been suggested that the increased fame and fortune associated with winning Paralympic events may be encouraging more athletes to cheat. Government funding of Paralympic bodies was also cited as a reason there is a desire to improve performance by any means.

Swimming Australia officials have made strong statements about their condemnation of anyone attempting to cheat the classification system but have also said that no allegations of cheating have been proven.

This controversy highlights a potentially underreported dark side to Paralympic sport both in Australia and around the world.